Welcome, Reading Friends! This is David Telbat. In this busy world, who has time to care for our neighbors? Let me share with you something I recently experienced with a neighbor of mine.
Where’s this Guy Coming From?
There’s a young man who lives nearby that I’ve gotten to know over the last few months. He’s seen me carrying around my Bible, so he’s expressed to me that he’s also a religious man, and he always says, “God bless you!”
After a couple of interactions in passing, I asked him if he was reading his Bible, and how his relationship with God was coming along. He didn’t answer me directly, but he had the common excuses we often hear when men of the world avoid sitting down to pursue God, like:
“God knows my heart.”
“We’re all basically good.”
“I do my best.”
“I’m trying to get closer.”
“I’m just so tired at the end of the day.”
“I’m just so busy.”
I know excuses have a tendency to be actually believed, so my subsequent conversations with this man turned toward prying a little deeper, to get to the bottom of his spiritual apathy. Was he a real believer? Did he really want God in his life? Or did he just like the thought of being related to something spiritual?
The Wrong Approach
On one particular day, when he rattled off a number of clichés about Christianity, I asked him very pointedly what made him a Christian when he was just repeating what a lot of religious people always say? My question was important, but my tone was sharp, accusative, and discouraging. Of course, he avoided my questions again and made an excuse to leave.
For several days, the tone that I had taken with him continued to bother me. My frustration over not figuring him out was causing me to become short with him. I prayed that God would help me break through to this young man without driving him away. So, I wrote this neighbor a letter and asked him to forgive me for my discouraging tone the other day, and said I really did want to see him live fruitfully for God.
On my way to his door to deliver the letter, we ran into one another. He was the same casual man as always, seemingly unbothered by the way I had been short with him previously, but I gave him the letter, anyway. (Our offenses toward others still need to be dealt with, even if the receiving party doesn’t realize they’ve been sinned against.) I really just wanted to start afresh with this man.
But to my surprise, he handed the letter back to me, and said, “I’m sorry. You’ll have to tell me what’s in it. I don’t know how to read.”
Be Urgent, but Not Hasty
Suddenly, all of our conversations made sense—all of his avoidance and excuses and seeming apathy. He wasn’t a fake or a fraud! He had simply never been able to study the Bible himself to build up his faith. We immediately made plans to meet so he could learn some wonderful truths about his Savior—whether he ever learned to read or not. That didn’t matter. We’d tackle one thing at a time, together!
I was deeply impacted by this whole incident, which actually spanned over several months. I hope it means something to you as well. It has come at the same time in my life when God has been teaching me to respond to spiritual matters with urgency, but not in haste.
People need to be cared for, but not in a way that overlooks personal needs that may be a barrier to their growth. So, when we embrace people’s inadequacies, those inadequacies cease to be as much of a burden to them, and we can share with them what matters most: the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith.
Thank you for letting me share this lesson with you. See you on the next page!
You can read other D.I. Telbat Author Reflections here.
COMING UP: Join us next time for a new D.I. Telbat short story, “Shared Grief.” (Be sure to have your box of tissues handy!) (The last Monday of October, Dee will share another D.I. Telbat Novel Update, and will also include more about our upcoming website changes.)