My An Arkie's Faith column from the April 7, 2021, issue of The Polk County Pulse.
The skies were clear, and sunshine bathed the landscape as we drove down to the low water bridge at Ponca. I was anticipating my first ever float on the Buffalo River. As we unloaded the paddleboards and kayaks out of the van, the air was crisp and cool. There was a flurry of activity as our group worked to air up the five paddleboards and three kayaks. When everything was ready, we headed down the river.
As soon as we knew the dates of my granddaughter’s spring break, we had started planning a Buffalo River float trip. I reserved Leatherwood House, a beautiful secluded cabin near the Steel Creek Campground. All winter, I looked forward to our Easter weekend family float trip. Now the day was finally here, and I was floating down the Buffalo. The scenery is incredible, with towering bluffs like Bee Bluff and Roark Bluff making you feel tiny as you paddle past them. Waterfalls seem to flow right out of the rock face and tumble down the bluff to the river.
I struggled with pain in my legs as I paddled my kayak, and numerous times, my daughter, son-in-law, or granddaughter had to help me when I got stuck on the shoals. The water was frigid and made you cold to the core. There was even an embarrassing situation where I had to get out of the kayak to free it from the shoals, and the swift current lowered my pants. By the time we pulled out at Steel Creek, I was in a lot of pain, but seeing the stunning views along the float was a bucket list experience for me.
Spending the weekend in God’s wonderful creation was the perfect way for me to spend Easter. We not only floated the Buffalo, but we hiked the Lost Vally Trail back to Eden Falls and also saw the Twin Falls at the Camp Orr Boy Scout Camp. Easter morning, I reflected on the final week of Jesus’ life. One of the stories that I remember from that week is Jesus crying for the city of Jerusalem. If He cried over the city of Jerusalem, can you imagine how He is crying over the world today?
When I was growing up, my family attended a small church in Fort Lupton, Colorado. The small church shared a pastor with another church. Sometimes when the pastor wasn’t there for the mid-week prayer service, those in attendance would take turns reciting a favorite text. Being a smart aleck, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was John 11:35. “Jesus wept.”
As I have grown older, it has become a favorite verse of mine. I believe the simple words, “Jesus wept,” may reveal as much about Jesus as any other words ever said about Him. I’m sure that you remember the story of Lazarus. When he became ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, the one you love is very sick.” Jesus chose to wait until Lazarus had died before He came. We read the story in John 11:33-35 (NLT). “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within Him, and He was deeply troubled. ‘Where have you put him?’ He asked them. They told him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Then Jesus wept.”
Why did Jesus cry? Was it because of his love for Lazarus? He knew Lazarus would be alive in a few minutes. Jesus was crying because his friends were sad. Their sorrow moved him. Jesus is painfully aware of your suffering. Psalms 56:8 (NLT) tells us, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
A few days before he died, “Jesus came near Jerusalem. He saw the city and began to cry for it.”Luke 19:41 (ICB) Why was Jesus crying? Was He crying for a city? I think that Luke 13:34 (NLT) gives us some insight into this story. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” Jesus was crying for the people of Jerusalem. He had come to save them, but most were not willing to be saved. Even though they had rejected him and his salvation, He had compassion for them.
If we follow the example of Jesus, how should we, as Christians, relate to sinners? We should have compassion. It seems to me that many Christians have lost their compassion. As I look around, I don’t often see Christians dealing with others with understanding. I am more apt to see hate than compassion.
I don’t want to meddle, but maybe I will a little bit. Think about a few hot button topics and see your response toward the following groups. LGTBQ, Muslims, Adulterers, Abortionists, Thieves, Drug Dealers, Illegal Aliens, Prostitutes, Atheists. Do you have compassion for them, or is your response something different? Can you hate someone while you are praying for their salvation? Should we hate someone that Jesus died for because he loves them?
Following the example of Jesus and having compassion for sinners is very liberating. It allows us to leave the judging up to God while practicing the self-sacrificing love He demonstrated on the cross. It will enable us to hold ourselves to a high moral standard without feeling that we must hate those who do not see things the way we do. Daniel Darling writes, “we must not allow our protest against values with which we disagree to overshadow our responsibility to show Christ’s love for the world. It may very well be the person who offends us the most whom God is in the process of saving. And our gracious response might be the bridge that the Spirit uses to usher him from death to life.”
A trendy catchphrase in Christianity is, “What Would Jesus Do?” WWJD is found on jewelry, emblazoned on bumper stickers, and has made its way into popular culture. The only way to determine what Jesus would do is by learning what Jesus did. Romans 5:8 (NKJV) tells us that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Gentle Reader, Jesus cried for a city of sinners who rejected him. He asked his Father to forgive those who tortured and killed him. We should love the sinner as Christ loves us. After all, we are sinners too. Holding a sign that says “God Hates You” is not an effective way to witness to sinners. Let’s follow the example of Jesus and love sinners and hate the sin in our own lives. John, the disciple that Jesus loved, tells us in 1 John 4:8 (NKJV) that “he who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”