It seems like God has been really talking to me today from several very divergent and surprising places, but all with the same message. It started this morning as I was teaching a Bible class from the book of Romans chapters 14 and 15 and the discussion turned to the question of how to relate to people who have different ideas than we do, not only fellow believers, but people from other faiths or of no faith as well. These two chapters are about acceptance and love and consideration, and they raise questions about how far do we go in accepting others. It called to my mind the fact that Christians often are not comfortable with people of different ideas--even, or especially, when we might share a common faith in Jesus but have some different ways of expressing or understanding the faith. And so people are often not comfortable with us.
Then this afternoon I read an article by Grayson Schaffer in OutsideOnline.com ironically entitled "Consumed" about world class kayaker and extreme adventurer Henrik Coetzee who was eaten by a giant crocodile while kayaking the Congo's Lukuga River, one of the most dangerous sections of river in the world not only for its rapids but also for its man-eating crocs and territorial hippos. Coetzee did this kind of thing all the time, and was once even captured by a tribe of cannibals who wanted to eat him for dinner. His life was given over to taking huge risks. He didn't seem to seek the adrenaline rush as much as he was on a search for meaning, something he never seemed to be able to find though he was consumed by this search (both figuratively and literally). It is a fascinating story, and I think his sense of adventure resonates with every human being. For while we all may not be adventurers in the sense of taking risks, we are all looking for meaning. In a way, and in very different ways, that search consumes every human being.
Finally, God seemed to be talking to me through a a video I watched this evening called "Crave: The Documentary" by Erwin McManus (http://powertochange.com/itv/spirituality/crave-the-documentary/). I highly recommend it. In the video McManus interviews a cross-section of people in Vancouver, British Columbia, asking them about their views of Christianity, religion, the church, God, Jesus, and spirituality.The upshot of this survey is that while many have negative feelings toward Christianity or God, people universally crave meaning in their lives. They are on a journey looking for significance, a sense of importance, to be loved and have their love accepted, to have a sense of purpose and destiny, to be connected. Perhaps, McManus suggests, all that is really our search for God and a relationship with him. For isn't that what he offers--purpose, significance, importance, love, connection, and destiny? And sadly, the church or Christianity is the last place many people would look for these things, often because of negative experiences they have had with Christians or the church. McManus suggests we change our strategy so that rather than trying to prove others wrong and us right, or using reward/punishment as a motivation to convert people, instead we learn to walk alongside people the way Jesus did with the two men on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24--two men whose hearts were burning inside them. People's hearts are burning inside. And while their ideas and views may differ greatly from ours, and may well be misguided or just plain wrong, could God be walking alongside them in their lives as they search for him even if they do not know what it is they truly search for? I think of Paul's statement in Acts 17.27 to the Athenian Philosophers who were seeking for God, how God reveals himself in various ways that "they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us." God is working in people's lives as they search for him. He is the source of our cravings.
So coming back to Romans 14 and how we view people of divergent views who are at very different places than us in their walk, is it possible that God may well be walking in their lives anyway, and can we come along beside them (and alongside God) in their walk? Can we be that conduit for God to help people find what it is they are really craving for? Perhaps by genuinely caring about others, listening to them, honoring them, trying not to be judgmental and critical, and loving them we could show them that God is the answer to their search for meaning. And maybe even through them, though they might be far from God (though God is not far from them), God might speak to us, just as God has spoken to me this evening through an extreme adventurer who was tragically eaten by a crocodile as he searched for meaning and ultimately for God.