We watched the movie “Walk the Line” today, about Johnny Cash’s life. It was tragic to almost the very end. Life on the road took its toll on his marriage. He turned to alcohol and drugs to keep going. Broken relationships, fits of rage, highs then lows, then deep regret. This seemed to be the cycle for him. Along the way he met June Carter, whom he fell in love with (even while still married). She kept her distance – for the most part – and he sunk further down into despair and addiction. When he had just about reached the lowest of his lows, June and her parents decided to help. They threw out his drugs and stayed with him at his house while he went through terrible withdrawals. They even scared off the visiting drug dealer with a shotgun. When Johnny finally came through and was in his right mind, he sat weakly in the bed on the verge of tears and told June,
Johnny: You’re an angel.
June: No, I’m not.
Johnny: You’ve been there with me.
June: I had a friend who needed help. You’re my friend.
Johnny: But I’ve done so many bad things.
June: You’ve done a few, that’s true.
Johnny: My Daddy’s right. It should have been me on that saw. Jack (his brother) was so good. He would have done so many good things. What have I done? Just hurt everybody I know. I know I’ve hurt you. I’m nothin’.
June: You’re not nothin’. You are not nothin’. You’re a good man, and God has given you a second chance to make things right, John. This is your chance, honey.
“This is your chance.” What a sweet moment in the story – I was so moved. How true that is for all of us and how true for so many who haven’t even heard it yet! How many people are out there feeling like they’ve messed up so much they’re nothing…worth nothing. So many of them don’t have a friend like June to stay with them anyway and tell them God believes in them and is giving them another chance.
Johnny made good on that chance. The next scene shows him reading fan letters, many from prisoners. All of them saying in one way or another how Johnny’s music made them feel better, they could tell he meant what he was singing, and so on. Johnny had spent a short time in prison after a drug bust. He had an idea. He cleaned up and went back to his record company, telling them he was going to record a live concert at the Folsom Prison. They balked at the idea. One of the execs even said, “Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin’ to cheer ’em up” to which Johnny replied, “Well, they’re not Christians then.”
He went to the prison and sang songs about being in prison, being in trouble, his brushes with the law. The men cheered, laughed and smiled. He was relating to them and by being there, telling them they were worth his time, worth singing to, worth a second chance.
I’ve been wrestling with the fact that the number of people passionate about sharing Jesus with people are the minority in America’s churches…not the way I dream of it happening. There are some great things happening, don’t get me wrong, but it seems the majority is stuck in a rut or drowning in complacency. It seems so much of our time as a church is just being together and enjoying one another. That’s fun and good but it can’t be it!
Why is it that we’re not sharing or telling people? Why is it that we’re not so on fire to let people in on the free gift from Jesus that we’ll risk our lives, like Christians do all the time in other countries? Are we merely distracted by all the fun stuff in our culture, by all the other things there are to do? Are we just selfish? Are we lazy? I’m including myself in the “we” – just so you know.
I think the biggest reason we’re not consumed with our mission is that we have lost sight of how valuable the gift is. We have forgotten what Jesus has really done for us. We don’t appreciate it fully. We don’t remember its value. We don’t remember the bad things we’ve done and how Jesus loved us even then and died for us anyway. We have to remember that God doesn’t play favorites. As glad as He is about the people that know him, He doesn’t love us more. He wants all the people to know Him and be close to Him.
So many empty people, hurting, disillusioned people, discouraged and lost people everywhere you look. I’m praying God will give me ideas on how to get to know some of them. I honestly don’t know what to do. I work in a Christian office with a small staff of three people, in a Christian building. I serve at my church a lot. We live in an apartment neighborhood with transient families that we rarely see outside their doors.
I hear of these awesome creative ideas some people have but I need God to give me something that works for me and my personality, in my particular community. What should we do as a church, too? I’m clueless and sometimes the thought of it, as pastor and pastor’s wife is overwhelming. It seems a daunting task to try and stir up everyone’s hearts so they WANT to share Jesus. I know God’s Spirit is the only one that can really do that. It seems before we can all band together as a church on mission, we have to each start at square one: knowing/seeing how precious Jesus’ gift is, truly accepting it for ourselves, and then praying God will use us to tell people, “This is your chance.”
God help us! Open our eyes! Forgive us for withholding or just looking the other way! Forgive us for just enjoying one another’s company and letting that be enough. Forgive me. Keep stirring up my heart, but along with that, God, I need some direction and ideas. Then I’m going to need boldness and help obeying You. Thank you for giving me my chance, and another one, and another.
© copyright Michele Klotz 2009