I have been wanting to tell this story for some time now. It indirectly relates to the Calvinism posts I have had up but mostly it is about a love story that went terribly wrong.
When I first came to Middle Earth I met a guy who had worked in another country for 15 years. He told me one day that he got a letter from a national friend in that country that really broke his heart. His friend who had worked with him for 15 years, helped him lead folks to Jesus, helped him plant Churches, prayed with him daily, and had shared so many of his joys and sorrows had given up on Jesus and gone back to Islam. I didn't know what to say. How do you make sense of that? I prayed that this would never happen to me. The truth is that everyone who stays out on the field lives to see a story like this. It is one of the more painful things that any christian worker will experience.
One day a young man came to the gate of one of our Doctors. Doc answered the door and was surprised to find a young man of Gondor asking if there was a follower of Jesus that lived here. He told Doc that he had become interested in Jesus through some stories from a friend and wanted to learn more. Doc suspected some sort of trap at first. Who was this young man who spoke good English? Why was he really there? They began studying the Word together a couple of times a week. After a couple of months the young man, I will call him Grima, insisted on praying and receiving Jesus as his Lord and Savior. It was an exciting time. They continued to study together and young Grima grew in his faith. Balin started a prison ministry about that time and Grima joined him with two other men. The four of them began feeding sick prisoners, sharing their faith boldly, and praying with sick and desperate men and women. Grima grew greatly in his faith. He shared well but did not really enjoy evangelism the way Balin did. Grima liked to follow up with men who had made decisions. He had Book studies with eager convicts who would gather in the prisons and discuss the Word of Life.
Later we had openings in our aid agency and Grima began to help out. He helped us support the new team down in Mordor and twice he made trips to Mordor himself. The first time he passed out Bibles indiscriminately and got the team there in trouble. The second trip he was more careful and was even able to meet with some secret believers and encourage them greatly. This all happened over a four year time span during which Grima grew in faith and knowledge. We were thankful to have him working with us.
One day I became aware that there was some tension in the office. I asked around and found out that Grima had been really prideful in front of the Muslim workers on our staff. I confronted him and he apologized but I saw something in him that I had not noticed before. Grima was really a very prideful young man. I told Doc about this and he promised to follow up on this in their discipleship meetings. A month later Grima went back to his village in the mountains. He had not been back since he became a Christian- I did not realize this- and he was concerned with how his parents would react to him. We prayed for him and a few weeks later he came back. He could not bear to face the shame of his parents upon hearing that he had become a Christian. They were very angry so he renounced Christ and declared himself a Muslim again.
In addition to this he quit his job with us and joined a non-christian aid agency. He went back to the Church that he had been a part of and convinced a young lady that he was interested in to renounce Christ so they could get married. She did but later they could not get married because the parents would not bless the wedding. I never understood why not but they didn't. I still see Grima now and again. Sometimes he comes by the office just to hang out. He says that life is miserable now. He hates himself but refuses to change. He has no peace and comes by the office sometimes to remember what it was like when he had peace and worked with gracious people. Honestly, it is hard for me to look at him as his very face is a picture of contorted pain and confusion. He becomes quite angry at any suggestion that he did the wrong thing. As far as he is concerned this was the only path for him and if it is an unhappy path then that is God's will. The bottom line for him is that he could not dishonor his father and mother.
So, after my horrific story are you ready for some good news? The good news is what all this teaches me about the Gospel. Most of us really don't understand the Gospel if we are honest. We believe it, sure but we don't understand it. We try and boil it down into some kind of propositional truth- just believe A, B, and C and you will be fine and go to heaven when you die. But then a story like this comes along and we don't know what to do with it. Jesus teaches us better. Believing propositional truth does not save you. Knowing what is right does not save you. Doing what is right does not save you. Salvation is loving and being loved by God. It is a love story from start to finish. Grima knew as much and more about the Bible as you do- and he believed it to be true- but that did not save him, and make no mistake he is not saved. Grima is not going to Hell, he is there already. I can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. His hopelessness is palpable and it breaks my heart.
I knew my wife over a year before I loved her. I worked with her in the University cafeteria. She was cute but I did not love her. I was not that interested in her really. Then one day I understood she was interested in me. We talked- exchanged some propositional truth like, 'we both wanted to go into missions' and stuff like that. Then one day I looked at her and nothing was the same. I didn't want to do anything but look at her. I would do anything for her and once we were married I discovered just what that would mean. I was no longer my own man. It is like this- but much more so- with Christ. We learn about Him. Know some truths about Him but we are not truly His until one day when we fall in love with Him completely. We give our lives to Him in ways that take the rest of our lives to understand. Jesus says it this way, 'Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.' Luke 14:26. You can't 'choose' that. Grima couldn't choose to reject his family. No, love is more than a choice. It is a mystery that takes us and takes over. Poets have written about this for as long as there have been poets writing but none of them capture completely what it means to be in love. And that is what we are. We are in love with the one who loves us more than His own son's life. Let us love passionately, unreservedly, and more deeply than ever before. Look to our great lover and BE loved. And in this great love be changed to be a lover who will never shrink back, hold back, or hold out. The Bible is full of propositional truth about who God is and what he wants from us but mostly it is a love story sung over us by our Great Lover. Rest in that and find the peace that Grima threw away. The old Baptist were right when they said, 'Faith that fails before the finish was faulty from the first.' Grima knew truths about God but could not love Him more than his own family. We must be more than this. Look to Jesus and see the love in Him and be changed by that vision of love forever. Let others see Jesus in you and in turn they too will be changed.