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It's one of grace's methods

01 March 2017 10:24

It’s one of grace’s methods


There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus began the conversation. Rather, the first to speak was the dying thief, saying to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23.42).


It was an astounding thing to ask of a man who was apparently as helpless as himself. For remember where we are. We are at Calvary. The request of the dying thief was being made to the equally dying Jesus. What prompted it? The answer still, after centuries of reflection, is that we can’t be perfectly sure. Perhaps the prayer that Jesus offered for his crucifiers. Perhaps the striking contrast between his gracious demeanor and that of the religious leaders who stood at the cross mocking. All we can say for certain is that the dying thief had been listening and observing. And it made the profoundest of impressions on him.


It puts me in mind of Peter’s words to wives with unbelieving husbands: “Be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3.1-2 NIV). There may come a point (and not just in a marriage) when to keep on pressing someone with the gospel does more harm than good; when it simply antagonizes. Godly wives (and everyone else in their position) are not to lose heart when that point comes. Those for whose salvation they are yearning may yet be won over without words”.


The key, says Peter, is what the unbeliever sees. He may no longer be hearing about his need of a Savior and of the difference Jesus can make. But he cannot help but see the life that that now silent witness is living out before him. And if it is a truly godly life, there is no telling the impression for good it may make on him.


An important aspect of this what an unbeliever hears – or overhears. One of the major factors in the conversion of John Bunyan was the godly conversation of some poor women in Bedford which, unbeknown to them, he overheard. It may be wise to refrain from speaking to someone directly about their soul. But who can tell the impression for good it may make as they hear us talk with others. Both what we say – and how we say it.


We may sum it up like this. One of grace’s methods is to save people, to bless people, through the influence of what they see in us. And very often that influence is unconscious. For we’re not always conscious of people seeing us. Nor are we always conscious of what they are seeing. That is why we can harm people without being aware of it. It is also why we can unknowingly do them great good. Far more, in fact, than we imagine.


The conclusion? Take it as a great reason for cultivating an ever closer walk with God!


David Campbell