Seeing a friend suffer is hard, but sometimes that suffering gives us a new perspective.
I remember when one of my closest friends lost his son and asked me to do his memorial service. After years of being clean after rehab and coming to know Christ, my friend’s 30-year-old son had one of those really low, dark moments that led to a very bad decision. He killed himself. He had struggled with depression along with the highs and lows that often accompany those who have experienced brain trauma from chemicals or collisions.
After I found out the news, my days were filled with multiple meetings with the family, coffee alone with my friend (with no real words to say but being present to let him know I love him), preparation and logistics with the church staff, and hours of interaction after the memorial with his friends and family.
During the memorial, a few people got up and shared about his “larger than life” personality and generous heart. He was the kind of person that attracted people like a magnet. He was the life of the party. As a result, the room was filled with 500 people who knew very little about a genuine relationship with Christ and for whom being in church was exceedingly rare.
His father was the last to speak, and it was what he did not say that had the most impact. His father simply said, “I don’t have anything to say today. I could talk for hours about my son, but what matters most to me is sharing with you the happiest day of my life with him.” He turned everyone to a video of me baptizing his son.
As people watched his son’s baptism, the room was silent and still. Afterward, my friend put his arm around me and told everyone through tears that I was his “best friend and bro.” Then he asked me to tell all of them how they can have what his son had found – eternal life.
Holding back my tears, I looked across the auditorium and into the eyes of the people – most of which who were looking at life, and especially God, through the wrong end of the binoculars.
My prepared notes remained untouched on the pulpit as I was moved to step forward and share my journey of leading his son to Christ. I shared of his questions, his assumptions, his fears and struggles, his openness and his passionate pursuit for meaning and purpose. I shared that he had in fact found the answer to his questions, and it was in Jesus Christ.
I went on to share who God really is, how He feels about people, what He has done for us, and how He longs for an intimate relationship with each of us despite our past dark moments.
What I observed in the hours that followed the service is that people were given a new lens.
As they ate and talked, scores of people told me they wanted to come to church. They told me they had never seen or understood God in the way I had described. Total strangers told me stories about their private lives and personal struggles with a light in their eyes, looking at me as though almost shocked that there was a God who really cared and came to bring them hope.
So what’s the “takeaway”?
The Gospel is powerful! The Gospel is amazing! The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.
But it is much more than that!
The Gospel reveals God’s father heart – His love and the hope that we have for this life and the next.
The Gospel reveals what our God is really like. He is holy beyond all measure and just in every way, and yet His mercy, love and compassion compel Him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves.
This group of unbelievers had heard about church, morality, rules, and what Christians are against. But I’m not sure many of them had ever heard the good news – the loving, hope-filled news and announcement of the Gospel.
Finally, my biggest “takeaway” is this: Those of us who know and traffic in the Gospel have lost sight of its author.
Many of us as professed Christians can quote Bible verses and know the principles of living the Christian life, but most of us are also looking out of the wrong end of the binoculars.
I wonder how much of our focus has become about us, our relationships, and what God needs to do just so that He can make our lives work out.
Have we lost sight of the God of the Gospel?
The Father wants us to know Him, enjoy Him, be blessed by Him and to be honored by Him out of love.
My prayer is that the Church will begin to see our Heavenly Father in a new light as much as I saw these unchurched, unbelieving skeptics captured with the love and the majesty of our God. May we see Him as He really is and not just how we perceive Him to be.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip