by R. York Moore
(Editor’s note: This is the 10th post in a series called “A Journey of Evangelism in Scripture,” where we travel from Genesis through Revelation to look into the intersection of evangelism at various points of time.
When Katy and her husband lived in our neighborhood, my wife and I were the only ones who got to know this extremely private couple from Mainland China. I was both excited and nervous to reconnect with Katy since our relationship with her and her husband was fraught with pain and hard work.
Katy is a very young and attractive mother of two young boys who stayed at home while her husband ran a successful company. After they moved in, we got to know them both and quickly learned of the abuse that was commonplace in their marriage. Katy suffered constant verbal and physical abuse which often required public intervention from police and neighbors.
My last encounter with Katy came after she was arrested in humiliation for finally retaliating against her husband. That encounter brought such shame that they sold the house and moved away. So when Katy yelled down the street to me, I was both overjoyed to see her and nervous to get an update on her life.
Katy ran towards me, nervously leaving her two boys to play in her relative’s yard. “Katy,” I said, “how great to see you again! I pray for you and your family often. How are you?”
She wasted no time in catching me up, “York, things are the same and even worse. My husband is so angry and I feel trapped. What has broken my heart however is that my oldest son has asked me why I don’t divorce my husband? How do I answer that, York?”
In some ways, Katy was a very typical young wife and mother from Mainland China, but in other ways she was pointed and forcible in her conversations, which always kept me on edge.
“Katy, I remember sharing with you and your husband about Jesus, about how He died for our sins and rose again—do you remember this?” Katy had remembered vividly all our interactions and responded, “Yes. I could one day believe, but not my husband. He will never believe and he will never let me believe. What should I do?”
Katy nervously looked down the street at her relatives, knowing they were ‘in’ on the dirty family secret and were likely keeping tabs on her. I began again: “I have some very specific things to tell you about divorce and separation and what is best for you and your children, but what I want to tell you first is that as long as Jesus is alive, you can have hope; you can have a fresh start.”
Katy became emotional and said, “In our home, God is dead. There is no hope, only suffering.” As I began to explain more of the resurrection story to Katy, she immediately warmed and responded, “Oh York! I wish I could believe. I want a fresh start.”
In John 11:35, we read that Jesus wept. I have often wondered what Jesus specifically wept for at the grave of his friend, Lazarus. In this interaction with Martha, Lazarus’ sister, at the tomb, I have come to believe we have a powerful metaphor and window into the heart of Jesus. Jesus wept, I believe, because of the hopelessness and despair of Martha, not because of the death of his friend. Jesus knew he would rise again either in this world or the world to come. Jesus had the power to change the outcome of the Lazarus story and was accused of such in the passage by both Martha and those watching.
In John 11:35, however, Jesus wept because of the gut-wrenching pain that comes from hopelessness. In Martha’s mind, Lazarus’ death was final—a shut door on hope. In her weeping, Jesus weeps. In her pain, Jesus is pained.
Katy is a lot like Martha. She is in a place of death, mourning the loss of her marriage even though the stench of its existence still fills her nostrils daily. Katy is in despair over the future of her children and her well-being. Katy is standing at the tomb of life in hopelessness and the most important thing I wanted her to experience was the sorrow of God and the hope of Christ.
I continued, “Katy, you can believe. There is hope. I first want to say that for your safety and the safety of your children, we need to work to get you out of your home and separated from your husband.” I had worked toward this end while Katy and her husband still lived on our street and I knew what he response would be.
She said, “I know you are right and I am almost ready, but I just want my kids to have their dad.” I responded, “Katy, they don’t have the dad they need right now and you staying is enabling them to look up to and eventually pattern themselves after a monster. You have to leave for your sake and for the safety of the kids.”
Katy looked back nervously at the relatives who were beginning to suspect her of sharing too much.
“Katy, before you go, I want you to know that the sense of loss and pain you feel is something God feels too. Jesus is standing at the tomb of your life right now and He weeps for what is happening. It is not God’s plan for you to live this way.” I ended, “Jesus asks us this question in the Bible: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’”
Before running off, Katy responded, “I want to believe. Thank you very much for loving our family, York.”
We all know that the resurrection of Jesus is an essential part of sharing the gospel; the fact that He rose is the source of our hope. For the Martha’s and Katy’s in our lives, however, the fact that WE can rise, that WE can have hope and new life are often the very front door to faith in Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus is the source of our hope in the face of death, despair, and hopelessness. As we stand and weep with people in the hard margins of life, let us boldly share the hope of the resurrection and ask them, “Do you believe this?”
R. York Moore (@yorkmoore) is national evangelist for InterVarsity USA. He is the author of Growing Your Faith by Giving it Away and Making All Things New: God’s Dream for Global Justice. Learn more: http://tellthestory.net