Written by Paul Chelson, Chairman of the Board, CE-USA
Are you ready for the heartbreak of watching people walk away?
“Thank you for your concern and for missing me. There is a good chance that I will not be attending the rest of the meetings. I feel I am completely comfortable with my spirituality. This was a great experience in strengthening my beliefs and how my faith has continued to work for me,” wrote one of the participants in an email after Session 5 of a recent Christianity Explored (CE) course.
She had attended sessions 2, 3, and 5 and had met for a catch-up chat outside class time with one of the leaders. She came with a strong sense of her own ideas about God and her question had been “What is Jesus for anyway? I talk with God whenever I want to.”
It is frustrating—but not uncommon—to have people only hear part of the Gospel and walk away, confirmed in their own beliefs. Yet this lady’s coming to the course suggested that there was something that her “spirituality” had not satisfied. We know that she was looking for Jesus, but she didn’t yet know that Jesus is what she has been lacking. Sometimes, participants are so entrenched in their own worldview that they are blind to what is in front of them.
Jesus had plenty of this kind of audience during his ministry. Mark tells us that Jesus looked with love at the rich young man who came to him asking, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Yet Jesus watched the man walk away because he had great wealth that he was unwilling to release in order to gain that which he lacked.
One of our other leaders was not dismayed when this lady walked away from the CE course—suggesting that her leaving confirmed that the Spirit was moving in her and making her uncomfortable.
We who know Jesus want everyone we tell about him to know him too. Therefore our hearts are deeply saddened when we see people walk away and go back to their own lost world without him. But, when or whether people meet Jesus—today, tomorrow, or at Judgment Day—is not our call. God has chosen his own before the beginning of the world. If God is calling this lady, she will come to know him in his good time.
So what are we to do in the meantime? We can continue to pray, stay in touch, and just be available–remembering that Jesus loved her so much that he died to rescue her from living without him. Each of these participants is part of our lives beyond the course—we are their link to Jesus, to the Gospel revealed in the Bible, and to the hand of God in their lives.
Can we drop them and walk away, saying our job is finished when they leave?