God is throwing a perpetual party and is not stingy with his invitations or picky about where he posts them. You might even say he’s careless with them and prodigally hospitable! Though I wrote an essay a while back called “God’s Passionate Pursuit of People” in which I developed this in some length, I wanted to elaborate a little bit on one aspect of that writing here. I also did a podcast of an audio teaching along these lines called, “Truth is.” Maybe between the three of these meandering musings I’ll be able to clarify how God uses anything and anyone to carry his message to everyone anywhere.
God strews his truth all over the place, even in some places that we might mistakenly consider “God-forsaken.” He wants everyone to collect his invitations, look for their original source, and find their way to the party. As I outlined in the essay mentioned above, he posts these clues about himself in creation, conscience, culture, creed, crises, and of course, us Christians. He stashes them in some of the most unlikely places – next to payphones in dark, smelly bars, in Hindu ashrams, AA meetings, ancient philosophies, LGBT centers, and the like.
He’s not worried about what some people might think if they see his invitations in such places. He’s not looking for a certain class of people to attend his party, nor, by using certain undignified places to deposit hints of his love is he legitimizing those places as flawless bastions of truth. He merely yearns to cover as much territory as the people he loves and wants to see at his party. Wherever they are, that’s where he’ll go to put up party announcements.
Let’s morph the metaphor a little. A career miner found a valuable gold nugget on one of his mining expeditions. Assuming that it must’ve come from a mother load nearby, he spends his life savings and the rest of his days mining that spot in hopes of finding the rest of the gold. At the end of his life he comes up empty, because little did he know that the nugget he’d found came from a vein three states away, which had been dropped there by hapless miners, who were on their way to another promising mine. He hadn’t realized that the small fragment was from a not so nearby Mother Lode and that it beckoned its finder to keep looking beyond.
As important as it is to know that God sprinkles his treasures in some dubious places, we should also be aware that the nuggets of his truth that we discover there were intended to lead us back to the spring of all truth – to Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When we find fragments of divine truth in false religions or cultures corrupted by sin it doesn’t mean that the depositories in which we found them are all on equal footing. Some contain one particular concentration of truth and others, another such quotient. We may be able to find a handful of nuggets in one vein and just the one in another. But the actual Mother Lode all truth can only be found and mined in Jesus.
Since I suspect that few, if any, of my readers are pre-christians, I don’t feel compelled to make the point about Jesus being the only way to the Father. I believe it, and you probably do too. But, in light of what I’ve been saying I do have a couple thoughts about how we share our faith with people.
First, we should remember that we’re not the first clue dispenser to anyone. We might be the first to explain it to them, but long before we showed up God had been tossing his invitations out in front of them so they’ll follow him home. So, half the “evangelism task” is in finding out what invitations they’ve received and work at helping them to interpret those. At most, we’re “clue clarifiers.” We clarify the clues for someone who has a pocketful of them but didn’t know how to interpret them. They might not even recognize the invitations as invitations, and in such case, it’s our job to help them take another look. “Hmm… Didn’t get an invitation? That’s funny, because I know he invited everyone and has been sending them out for quite some time now. Not to be condescending, but is it possible you’ve overlooked one or two? Have you ever felt like someone was watching… or when you looked into the night sky that something inside resonated beyond just your awe of the beauty… or when you read your sacred text did it seem like someone even bigger than your prophet was speaking to you behind the words?”
Then there are those who are content to camp on particular vein of truth and are making no plans to search on for the rest. They’ve traded their camping equipment for more permanent housing in order to stay and mine that one spot forever. When given the chance, we should make every effort to intrigue them to search on for the Mother Lode.
Please permit one more concluding metaphor mutation. Let’s think of the invitations as breadcrumbs leaving a trail for us to find our way back home to God. As such, these manna-like morsels are more instinctually unavoidable than rationally understandable. Since he knows all about our “parts,” having invented and installed them he reaches out to all those parts. In the case of the breadcrumb allegory he reaches out to the part that needs nourishment. He therefore feeds us and leads us at the same time. The crumbs he leaves on the path for our journey back to him actually nourish us. If anyone knows that the “way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” it’s the Maker of his stomach and his heart.
“He has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Acts 14:17
Application: Keep inviting people to the party. You’re in good company!