“I don’t want to talk about this with you. I’ve had this conversation with too many people, too many times before,” she said, “And it doesn’t change anything. Everything is the same as it’s always been.”
I tried to put myself in her shoes — the repeated disappointment she’d faced in her lifetime, watching blatant and insidious racism tear at her heart. But instead, I felt frustrated, robbed of the opportunity to hear her story or make any step toward dismantling the wall of division our worlds had built between us.
A tragic and wicked history made her want to dismiss me, and her dismissal of me made me want to reciprocate.
But the Gospel does not afford us the luxury of hopelessness. “That’s just the way he is…” or “she’s always been that way” or “things will never change…” — These words are devoid of the Gospel, the very antithesis of His promise to make all things new, and they have no place in the heart or mouth of a Christ-follower.
Christ met Saul on the road to Damascus, while the latter was en route to drag believers from their homes and arrest or murder them in the street. The least likely candidate for the life-altering affection of Christ, Saul had earned the admiration of the godless through his brutal attacks on Christ’s followers. But God…
Writing off a situation or – even worse – another human, based on their past or present, their intelligence or ignorance, their melanin or musical preferences – it smacks of self-righteousness. It screams, “I have this figured out, but that person never will, because they aren’t as smart or disciplined or godly as I am.” How arrogant am I to forget where I was when the Father rescued me? Were we not all hell-deserving, black-hearted, self-seeking fools? Aren’t even our best deeds “filthy rags”? How dare I think I’ve risen above needing Christ not just for eternal salvation but for daily obedience?
If we live by the Scriptures, we’re never granted permission to write someone off eternally. Even when Paul hands someone over to Satan, he does it in the ultimate hope that their “flesh will be destroyed” and that repentance will follow (1 Cor 5:5). Some people take years to change, and other never do. But since I don’t know what God has planned for a person, I aim to believe better things:
- The Gospel means we always have hope in what Christ does for sinners like us. (e.g. “People have hurt me before, and others may hurt me in the future, but God…”)
- The Gospel means I’m set free to dwell in joyful expectation that He is doing and will do good things, even if they look different than what I wanted. (e.g. “Hope is heavy, but God…”)
- The Gospel means He shoulders the burden of our deepest aches and longings. (e.g. “I can’t change hearts or minds or histories, but God…”)
- The Gospel means I serve a God who is in the business of turning His enemies into His friends. (e.g. “No matter how far this is from perfect, God gave His love for us while we were still mired in sin. This person may be far from Him, but God…”)
The Gospel means there are no lost causes, no hopeless cases. Do something radically hopeful:
- pray for ISIS members to become servants of Christ
- pray for yourself, that you’d be kind to that coworker you can’t stand
- pray for that impossible healing
- pray for reconciliation with the family member who hasn’t asked for forgiveness
Who knows but that the God of All Hope might deem it best to say, “yes” to your prayers. And even if He says no, our Hope is in HIM, not in the “yes.”
My friend and I finished our talk that night, and we’ve had a few more talks since then. Maybe we’re not solving anything, unless friendship itself is a solvent. But I’ve come to believe it is.