People always feel safer around someone they believe understands their circumstances. This is why wise politicians strive to be transparent about their personal heartaches. They know how easy it is to become detached from their constituents in the course of governing. But when a government leader is diagnosed with a serious illness or suffers a family tragedy, the line that separates the powerful from the less fortunate seems to disappears temporarily.
I don’t mean to suggest those of us who worship and serve in a local church are above others, but rather that others sometimes perceive us that way, at least spiritually speaking. We must never forget how intimidating the church can appear to those who don’t know Christ, or even those who do but have been alone in their walk for many years. This isn’t necessarily because we have purposely done anything to create this perception or that cultural stereotypes regarding Christians are fair. But true or false, fair or not, those who are outside of Christ or out of fellowship with His church are often uncomfortable around us. If they are ever to catch a glimpse of the 100% Jesus, they need to know we are a source of comfort, even as we have been comforted.
In our desire to change how others view us, we must remember to maintain a biblical balance between grace and truth, comfort and conviction. As we have seen, these two aspects of the mourning process are inseparable. God’s truth is filled with grace and grace is itself one of His most foundational truths. At Calvary the penitent thief received comfort from Jesus as he died for his criminal conviction. One of the reasons I appreciate Luke’s account of the woman who anointed Jesus feet is because it presents a straightforward picture of sin, repentance and forgiveness. Jesus didn’t excuse the woman’s sins, but He did offer her compassion and an opportunity for a new life.
In the same way, people who reach out for the hope Jesus gives aren’t just looking for acceptance. They want something that can change the course of their lives for the better. It is true they may not be receptive to everything God has to say, but they come expecting to hear something of substance.
The good news is, if we are mourners we are in a position to share the whole counsel of God. We have experienced sin and loss, but have embraced the Lord’s forgiveness and healing. Mourners don’t have to be incredibly clever in their efforts to draw others to Jesus. They point the way by example, and those who come to know them are able to witness living proof of the gospel’s power.