Last Friday our family was doing some shopping and as Mike was in the store, the rest of us waited in the car. I just sat there with nothing to do so I watched the Salvation Army bell ringer and noticed all the people who stopped to give their money ... women, men, young, old ... so many people in just the 10 minutes I was watching. I found myself crying because of the goodness I saw in these people. I understand that we cannot be good or do good without Christ but look how the world around us is trying, especially at Christmas. Without Jesus, they'll get it wrong every time, but what I see in people is hope and longing for goodness; goodness in themselves, goodness in others and goodness in the world. Isn't this also what God desires? He sent Jesus to give us Himself so we could be good and have good. Wasn't this the message of the angel? "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY which will be for ALL THE PEOPLE; for today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE AMONG MEN with whom He is WELL PLEASED". (Luke 2:10-11, 13-14)
Some of my theology bucks at what I read here, God says he is well pleased with man. How does that reconcile with the fact that no one is good and that we are desperately wicked without Christ's atonement? I don't know ... but here it is. God is pleased with his creation and He longs to see all people at peace with Him. He wants everyone, even before they are good. So when I watch the world around me do good and desire good, I see that they are bearers of God's image and what they are truly hoping and waiting for is Jesus to be the good in them that they cannot be on their own. They do good believing it's the right thing to do, and it is. They just don't have all the information yet. I guess what I'm realizing is that the people out there who are not yet adopted into God's family are not the enemy. They may generouly give to the toy drive and then grumpily curse at me on the freeway, but that's the mess they're in: the sinfulness in the world. But Jesus came down into Satan's muck that we're all trapped in to pull us out of it. What people don't know in their souls is that there is an answer and all their attempts to be good are a search for that answer. They are wicked because they don't know the answer yet.
Compassion. That's what I feel. Peace and goodwill towards others. Most people want to be good, they really do. They just need to be invited to know how they can be. Christ didn't come for the people who are already "in", he came for the "searchers," people who are trying to do good by putting their money in the Salvation Army pot. He is all the good we will ever need and when we accept him, that's it ... we're good. There's nothing else we need to do. "Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come fearlessly into God's presence assured of his GLAD WELCOME" (Eph. 3:12). This is why I love Christmas. Now I can fearlessly come into God's presence because Christ has brought me peace and I know that I am gladly welcomed. He came to bring everyone peace. I just wish I knew how to tell everyone, how to invite them to taste and see the goodness of the Lord. I am glad to know that Jesus is still coming into our muck to live among us and to save us. I am grateful that he exchanged his life for mine and has covered me entirely with himself. I am overwhelmed by the blessing of Christmas and what it means for all who are willing to believe ... peace, goodness, comfort, joy, eternal life, love, protection, and so much more. And this year I find that I am grateful for the fatigue. It's good to be more sensitive. God's heart beats for all people, he loves them tremendously which is the whole reason for Christmas in the first place. I often do not love people or appreciate them enough (people outside the church, that is). Usually I choose to categorize them as "saved" or "unsaved", I guess really that means I'm saying they're either "in" or "out". How about just calling them people who were created to love God and to do good and have either found out how or are still seeking. And when they are doing good, recognize that as them reaching for the truth. I cried on Friday because I realized that I do love people and appreciate them if they are not "saved". I don't have to wait for them to be in God's family before I love them, God doesn't. If he did there would be no Christmas. Thank you God for the gift of fatigue that has allowed my heart to beat a teensy bit more in sync with yours this Christmas.