We’ve all done it. That frantic search for ten minutes for the smallest stupidest thing. Why we have to find that one pen I was using (even though there are twenty others available) is a mystery, an insane obsession. But I must…it will not defeat me! When we do, we hold it proudly aloft, announcing to the world “I found it!”, expecting to be acknowledged for this superhuman feat which saved civilization from an apocalyptic demise. Of course, nobody really cares.
I shared this with a roomful of Ugandans and they laughed. It seems this type of hunting is a global reality, and when I shared the “nobody else cares” there was a lot of elbowing each other.
After a few wives stopped bruising their husbands’ ribs, I shared the stories in Luke 15, the only time Jesus told back-to-back-to-back stories that had the same pattern and message. A search for a lost sheep, a lost coin sought, a lost son looked longingly for. Imagine how frantic we look for a fifty-cent pen, then how determined a shepherd climbs hills and peers into bushes, how a woman tosses her house looking.
If we obsessively search for such things, imagine how intense God hunts for people. He has been looking far longer and far more intensely, turning the house of man inside out, like a dog getting the scent of an animal and not letting creeks or thorns or hills stop its hunt!
As I let that sink in, I told them we were going to go into the market town and share the stories we had been learning. I told them it is not their job to “convert” anybody. All they are doing is sharing with people whom God is more eager to find they we ever will be. Then we went out into the surrounding village and fields.
A couple hours later we shared together…
- I was with a group of women selling on the street. I shared the story of the woman with the issue of blood. One of them said she had been bleeding for several years too and asked if Jesus still helped women. I prayed with her and she said “I felt it!” She and three others asked more questions. They all prayed to accept Christ and will come to church.
- It is Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims. I was sharing with a Muslim group of men. They said not to talk about Christianity. So we talked an hour about Jesus in stories. When they realized what they had done, the leader said “I know as a good Muslim I should not listen, but I love these stories. Let us agree I am in process.”
- An animist leader had told his small village for years, “The Bible is an animal that will transform into an animal, chase you, and eat you! Stay away from it!” I shared stories with a man by the river. When he heard they were from the Bible, he said “WHAT? I wasn’t eaten?” He brought friends to hear stories.
After much sharing, I told the group to not overlook something in Luke’s stories. Jesus talks about the huge rejoicing in heaven each and every time somebody who God has been relentlessly pursuing is found. I told them that for each person who is deciding if they will believe in Christ, all of heaven stops…waiting…leaning in…holding its breath. Then, like the river exploding in rainy season, when all of heaven hears “I believe”, it erupts in celebration unlike anything we can imagine! That is what happens when a passionate God pursues with reckless abandon. That is what happened today. The Ugandans went nuts and we sang praise songs for an hour, including a few people who had just heard stories that afternoon.
Late that night my host got a call. “Pastor, a man came to my house tonight. He came to the church all week because he heard a mzungu (white man) was there and was curious what a mzungu would say. He sat in back each day. He told me he never heard of God like in the Bible stories. Today he listened to the sharing. After you left, he came to my house and asked, ‘Does God really hunt for people without stopping?’ After a couple hours he invited Jesus into his life. Then he asked, ‘Did God just celebrate?’ and teared up.”