Missions:Speaking to a Dying World

Four Samaritan Lepers

As an oncology nurse, I’ve seen hundreds of deaths. I’ve seen sudden death and lingering death, peaceful death and painful death. I’ve seen the difference between how believers and unbelievers die. Seeing someone take their last breath is a sobering experience.

Because of my field of work, I’m a realist about death. Yet as a believer, I’m an optimist. I know that God does heal. My husband is fourteen years cancer free. However, some cancers recur, others spread rapidly despite treatment.

The world avoids the whole idea of death with entertainment and distractions. Even believers who are secure in their salvation may still fear the mode of death itself.

Life is short, maybe 80 years. Even the longest life is distilled into a twenty minute eulogy. “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting. For that is the end of all men, and the living will take it to heart.” Ecc.7:2

To the unbeliever, death is the Great Unknown. It is a fearful thing. They have no hope of ever seeing their loved ones again. They have only despair. Their idea of eternal life is that the person will live on as long as someone remembers them.

But we don’t sorrow as those who have no hope. Death does not have the last word. Because Jesus rose from the grave, we will, too.

Tucked away in 2 Kings 6 and 7 is an account of a terrible famine in the besieged city of Samaria. The Syrian army was camped outside the walls. The people were resorting to cannibalism. Elisha prophesies a sudden reversal of the famine in one day. Four lepers are sitting outside the city and decide they can either starve to death where they are, or surrender to the enemy and perhaps find mercy. If not, they’ll die either way. In the mean time, God had routed the army. They fled leaving everything behind. The lepers go from tent to tent, eating and gathering treasures, until their conscience pricks them. They remember their brothers dying in the city while they have such abundance. They say, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent.”

They return to the city with the good news, their story is corroborated, and the famine is reversed, as prophesied.

We bask in the joy of sins forgiven, the hope of Heaven. But we can’t just gorge ourselves and not share the Living Bread. “We are not doing right.” We cannot remain silent. “This is a day of good news. “

There’s an urgent need for the gospel. There’s a famine out there. It’s a dying world. Do we live like it? Or are we so self satisfied that we forget their destination without Christ? We squander opportunities to share the gospel, talking about nothing of consequence. I know I do.

So how do we tell them? Just say something! Like the healed blind man in John 9, he wasn’t able to argue about theological issues, but he could say, “One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” “Evangelism  is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” (D.T. Niles) Tell them where they can find bread.

Published in Summer 2012 issue of Barnabas

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