As a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, I was assigned to write a series of articles profiling poor families in Chicago. My research took me to a shelter run by the Salvation Army.
For weeks, I observed as volunteers tended to the homeless and destitute—people that nobody else seemed to care about. They provided food, housing, clothing, and counseling. They helped them find jobs. They calmed their frightened children.
At the end of my research, I stopped to say good-bye to the woman in charge. During our chat, she said. "Lee, I know you're a skeptic, but I'm curious. What do you think about Jesus?"
An adamant atheist at the time, I was accustomed to shutting down Christians who tried to proselytize me. Yet when this woman started talking about God, I was suddenly receptive. Why? Because she wasn't just telling me that God loves people; I had seen her and her team living out that value through their selfless acts of service.
Watching them express God's grace to hurting people had started to dismantle, brick by brick, the wall surrounding my heart. And that experience was an early link in a long chain that eventually led me to Christ.
Jesus couldn't have been clearer. "Let your light shine before men," he said in Matthew 5:16, "that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
We serve the hurting, the imprisoned, the homeless, the jobless, the addicted and others because they are made in God's image. They matter to him and so they matter to us. And one effect of serving others is that it can crack open the hardest of hearts that have long resisted the gospel.
One caution: we're not the Kiwanis Club or The Red Cross. They serve people, too. But our concern must go beyond meeting people's physical needs and extend to their spiritual condition as well. Romans 10:14 is clear: people won't understand the gospel unless we explain it to them - which we should do clearly and consistently.
We can't be satisfied with making passengers more comfortable on the Titanic. Yes, we need to serve people, but we also must offer them a seat on the only lifeboat that can ultimately save them.
—Lee Strobel author and apologist, Denver, Colorado
Copyright © 2012 by the author or Christianity Today/Leadership Journal.
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