Not too long ago I attended the funeral of my Aunt Betty at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, Ca. She experienced 79 years of this life before passing on to the next.
It was a gentle and reverent service in the heat of the afternoon sun, interspersed with quiet sobs and the shedding of tears. My Uncle Ken had spent 58 years with my Aunt. Together they have left a legacy of wonderful children and grandchildren. It’s always so hard to say goodbye to a loved one. My heart truly breaks for my Uncle and his family.
I’ve never liked funerals or cemeteries. I feel real uneasy there. I guess it goes back to when I attended my first funeral, the burial of my Mom when I was 11 years old. Deep wounds don’t seem to ever fully heal.
My father and stepmother wanted to show me their plots before we left. I agreed because I understood their wanting to show me. There’s nothing like a funeral to force you to confront your mortality. They also took me to the gravesites of their parents.
As we went to each site I couldn’t help but notice the thousands upon thousands of graves laid out row by row in careful and reverent precision. Lots of dead people there, that was for sure. Each of us were careful not to step on the headstones of those long departed - I guess out of respect and to honor their memory for the sake of the loved ones they had left behind.
As I said my good bye’s to each family member and drove off I became aware of the hundreds of people around the cemetery that were just visiting, or bringing fresh flowers or saying their farewells.
I was suddenly overwhelmed with a rush of pain and anguish. “I see dead people,” I whispered to myself. They are living, yes, but are they really ALIVE? Have they experienced the life-changing power of God’s great and wondrous love as I had? Do they know that they can be raised from the dead and find real-life...life eternal? Do they know that their sorrow and mourning can be turned to joy? Have they heard the Gospel message that Jesus has conquered death? Do they know that they can begin eternal life right NOW and begin a personal and intimate relationship with the creator of the universe?
There are billions of human beings on this planet. In fact, there are more alive today than all those who have died in the past combined. Yet among the living, I see dead people. I see hearts and hopes and dreams that need to be resurrected. I see relationships that need to be reconciled in forgiveness. I see people who need to hear the GREAT News.
They should be the reason we put up with the struggles and trials and heartaches of ministry. They’re the reason for our existence. We should want to show them that they can find real joy... joy beyond description...real peace, peace that defies circumstance...real life, life that is abundant through the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son! The only one who willfully chose to lose His life so that every human being could find LIFE!
We serve a great God who longs to heal the brokenhearted...Who waits patiently for His bride to come and join Him at the great marriage banquet. As servants of this wondrous King, it’s our job to see that the bride is prepared to meet Him, millions upon millions, one by one.
Stop to look and listen to those around you. Do you see dead people or are they just like flies you want to swat out of your way when they irritate you or cut in front of you or disagree with you?
Can you see beyond their shallow symbols of prosperity and wealth or those with earrings or nose rings or tattoos or spiked hair?
Can you hear the desperate cries of their hearts above the booming of their music or the tinkling of ice cubes in loud and smoke-filled rooms, or in the empty and deafening silence after a one-night stand?
It is for those very people that the agony and suffering of the Cross was worth every ounce of innocent blood shed. We must let them know that the greatest hope and joy and love than people can ever find, or ever know, is in the person of Jesus Christ.
We don’t have time to meet in committees and argue and debate over petty theological issues or self-conceived notions of what new model or methodology should be used to reach the unchurched. We just need to do it! The Great Commission is not about attracting people but becoming attractive, taking on the beauty of Christ and becoming a sweet fragrance that the lost can never forget once they experience it. (2 Cor 2:14) We just need to show them the incarnate Christ living within. (Luke 17:22)
We must become givers of life resurrecting the dead. It should burn within us like an unquenchable flame. We must become His eyes to see their needs, His hands to touch and hold them, His ears to listen to the cries of their hearts, His voice to speak words of life and hope.
Do we really want to be givers of life? If so, then we too must become one of the dead people, dead to our own petty ways and wants, dead to our selfish ambitions and aspirations. Jesus told us that if we cling to our life, we will lose it; but if we give it up for His sake we will find it and, in doing so, experience the power of the resurrection. (Mk 8:35)