What follows was originally posed on my Blogger site on Saturday, December 27, 2008:
As Jean and I reflect on the now passed Christmas season 2008, full of gifts, food and family, I’m reminded again of something Mark said several weeks ago during our sharing time one Sunday morning; God is interested in saving whole households, not in plucking out individuals from their families (my paraphrase). Salvation was the mission of this babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
As I think about those in all of our families who are not believers, I think about how truly profound that statement is, and how the Lord is faithful to his promises if we believe him.
In Acts 5, Paul and Silas were beaten and jailed for preaching the Gospel. Despite being bruised, bloodied, and chained, they began singing hymns, praying, and praising their god. Apparently around midnight (they’d probably been doing this for some time), there was an earthquake that opened the doors of the jail, and allowed the prisoners the ability to escape. The first unusual event here is probably the earthquake. The second is the fact that, despite the ability to flee, all of the prisoners stayed put (Acts 5:28).
We don’t know why the other prisoners didn’t run, so we shouldn’t speculate. But something happened when the jailer woke and went to the cells and saw the men all accounted for -an occurrence that he attributed to Paul and Silas. I think we can infer here that the jailer recognized some sort of power that the Apostles had that made the jailer want to worship something beyond what he could comprehend. I think we can also infer that he attributed this power to Jesus. It’s likely that he heard them singing, but I’d say that it was definite that he, being a guard, knew that they were in custody for preaching salvation through Jesus Christ alone. I believe we can infer all of this because of the question that the jailer asked when he arrived at the jail cell.
“Sirs (an obvious sign of respect), what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 5:30). I’d say this guy was, or had instantly become what Christians call a ‘seeker’.
We all know the answer he was given, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.”
The jailer was not plucked out of his family and saved. He was impressed by what he saw in the faith of these two beaten, bloody, chained, and weak men who believed in the power of their god despite their seemingly dire situation. He was so affected by what he’d witnessed, that he did what we all do when we have a bit of news that we can’t keep to ourselves…he immediately told the people close to him. …and it affected them too. So much so, that they all became saved. “he and his whole family” (vs. 34) The jailer wasn’t an accomplished exegete, he wasn’t a pastor, he wasn’t a theologian, he wasn’t an ‘evangelist’, he wasn’t a deacon or an elder, and he wasn’t a bible-beater. Remarkably, he hadn’t even been a believer for more than a few hours. But he was eager to share with those he cared about something that had just completely changed his life. He just went to his family and said, “guess what? These two guys just told me something that you have to hear!”
When was the last time that you were this excited to share the Gospel to those whom you care about, just because you cared about them? All of us have unbelieving children, parents, siblings, maybe a spouse, a son or daughter-in-law, aunt, uncle, friends, etc. who desperately need the message of Christ. Many if not most of us (myself included) are too afraid to discuss Christ with them for fear of being shunned, laughed at, ignored, not invited back or whatever. We would do well to remember that we sow the seed, the Gardner makes it grow. The Philippian guard did not save his household; he was just obedient to do what came naturally to him…share something that was important to him with people that were important to him.
I believe my sister and her husband are believers. My stepfather may be, although I believe he is immature in his faith. I believe the Lord has my other sister’s attention in some ways, as I see her maturing. But my parents (though mother is in church almost every Sunday), my brother, several of my other friends and family at least two of my in-laws are not. This is particularly sad because my grandfather was a pastor before he died and many of them have spent their entire lives in churches. Scripture says that you can judge a tree by it’s fruit, so my assessment is based on that. To be sure none of us are perfect, but scripture gives us the latitude not to judge, but to asses by people’s actions who is saved.
Praying for people isn’t enough. Sowing seed require intentionality and effort. Consider for a moment that prayer alone may even be the spiritual equivalent of being passive-aggressive. It takes no effort, no confrontation, no personal investment of emotion, and carries no inherent fear of rejection. It may even be a tactic of the enemy to have us overspiritualize praying for someones salvation to the point that we do nothing to help hasten it. It inhibits us from doing what should come naturally. I’m not saying that prayer isn’t effective, but a faith without works is a dead faith. To put it another way, a faith that doesn’t cause action is like corpse that can’t move. It is like a tree that produces no fruit.
The new year is almost here, and with it a new beginning. In 2009, I believe we need to remember (and perhaps retrain ourselves) to do what comes naturally when it comes to sharing the good news of Christ with our family and our oikos. We need to talk about things that are important to us to people that are important to us. God is interested in saving whole households, not in plucking out individuals from their families…
Be blesses family,