I know a man who used to be a pastor, but over time he became bitter towards God and left the faith.
I find it difficult to talk to him. We’ve tried talking, but it quickly turned into debate about philosophy, politics, Christianity, where we are polar opposites. It was unpleasant for both of us.
So we’ve stopped speaking, more or less. When he comes to visit, we say hello, have a little chit-chat, and that’s it.
Nevertheless, he gets evangelized every time he comes to visit my house. Just not by me.
You see, my kids love him. Especially Daphne, my eldest.
They are thrilled whenever he comes to visit.
They give him hugs and kisses and want him to play with them.
Daphne will ask him to read a book to her. He’ll agree. Then she’ll go pick one of her Christian storybooks. So there is this former pastor who is angry with God reading a story about Jesus’ love to my daughter. Over and over again.
We pray as a family at the dinner table. Sometimes Daphne will lead us in prayer. Sometimes Zane. Even Scout gets her turn to lead by repeating a simple one-sentence petition after me. We’ve had several awesome answers to our prayers, so we both praise God and ask for new provisions.
The man will be sitting there at the dinner table, in silence. He knows we pray and respects that. He does not join in. But the kids don’t know about any of that. They will ask him if he needs prayer for anything. He’ll say he’s fine. And then they’ll pray for him and others and give thanks for our food and start eating. And the man listens to it. And he sees my kids pray. And he knows that they are praying for him.
I cannot have spiritual conversations with him. But my kids can.
They can do it because they are completely without guile. There’s no pressure. No ulterior motive. Talking about Jesus is as natural to them as talking about sunshine.
They remind me of what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:
Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children (1 Thess 2:6-7).
There is a textual debate over the word translated as “gentle” (ēpioi) by the NKJV. Many of the earliest manuscripts and quotes from the Church Fathers have a slightly different word, nēpioi, referring to a small child. Hence, the NIV translates v 7 as,
Instead, we were like young children among you.
Some people think “gentle” makes more sense of Paul’s metaphor of being a mother nursing her children. Others find the sudden switch from comparing himself to a young child, to comparing himself to a mother caring for her children, to be very Pauline.
Either way, I think the basic lesson is the same. It’s the lesson my kids have been teaching me. Will that man come back to the faith? I don’t know. But if he ever does, it will be because childlike gentleness reached him when nothing else could.