I have to admit that I used to hate cats. I never understood why someone would want an animal that hides 20 hours of the day and hisses at you the other 4 hours when it decides to grace you with its presence. I see all the “cute” kitten pictures girls post on Facebook and all I can think is “You need a dog in your life.” Strangely enough though, my perceptions of cats have taken a complete 180 turn in the past several months due to a stray cat named Stubby that visits our house from time to time. Stubby has not only done well for his entire species, but he has highlighted a great truth that too many of us as Christians forget: Genuine small acts of love push people toward Christ no matter how far away they are from His Grace.
Stubby started coming to our doorstep early this winter and I wanted nothing to do with him. My wife and I would sometimes put out some scrap food for Stubby. He would eat it and then go his way. I liked his lack of neediness but one night it got down to 20 degrees outside so I agreed to let him in for about an hour, but no longer. While he was in our house he was playful, well behaved, clean, and actually showed his love toward us with many small gestures. After his hour was up I kicked him outside with some warm towels that he could shelter under. A week later cold weather returned and Stubby was at our door waiting for us when we got home. This time I agreed to let Stubby stay the entire night. At about 3 am I woke up to a shifting of weight at the foot of our bed. Stubby had cuddled up and was purring more than any cat I ever heard before. All of my instincts told me “KICK HIM OFF”, but I decided to let him stay. Time and time again this has happened and now when we come home Stubby is usually waiting for us doing backflips for us to come in. I have bought him play toys, I let him stay whenever he wants, he has met all of my friends, I have bought him Meow Mix, and yes I let him sleep in our bed whenever he wants. I am officially still a dog man, but little experiences over time with Stubby has me rethinking how I view cats because now I can truly say I love Stubby and look forward to seeing him every day. At first I didn’t understand what was happening, but now I see it clearly. Stubby was working a plan. Bit by bit, Stubby was nudging me toward a relationship with him.
This experience teaches a great lesson about how we as Christians need to reach out to the Lost.
There are many people in this world who are not yet ready to accept Christ. They are “Not-Yet Believers.” They are open to a gesture of kindness and love that can nudge them closer to being ready to accept Christ. Recently, I’ve heard pastors use the analogy of golfers on a golf course to represent those who are on a journey toward coming to Christ at various points of readiness to accept Christ. Some golfers are right on the green and ready to putt their ball into the hole (accept Christ), while others are so far away from the hole it wouldn’t work all that well for a putter to move them. For the person that is far away from the hole, a simple act of love can be used to get them closer to the hole where the golfer can use a putter to nudge them into the hole (to accept Christ) so that progress will take place. Progress takes place all along the golf match no matter which club is used. The lesson learned is this – use the appropriate club depending on where the ball lies, not on your affinity for a particular club. Learn to use a number of clubs!
Too many times in evangelism we focus on the end result and we want to rush people there without taking the time to show them who God is through small acts of genuine love. There are many people who are so distant from accepting Christ, that a push in His direction with a practical service may be all that God asks at that moment. I like to think that our small obedient acts of love give the lost a first impression of who God really is, and how much He loves them. If I think about my relationship with Stubby, he did not come in and demand that he sleep on my bed and eat my food right away. I would have promptly kicked him off my property. However, little genuine acts of love over time gave me a first impression of cats and brought me to the point where I was ready to dive in to whatever Stubby wanted. When we grasp the truth that God uses even our small acts of love to draw the Lost to Himself, it inspires us to live a life that is bursting out with the love and kindness God has shown us. Every small act of our life becomes meaningful simply because a small act of love shown to an Unbeliever could be all God needs to draw them to a better understanding of who He is, which in effect draws them closer to accepting Jesus’ love.
Our church has recently caught fire on giving people within our community a first impression of who God is. As we focus on giving the Lost a little nudge closer to Jesus we like to perform small acts of kindness such as passing out free water on a hot day, passing out free candy, doing free car washes, raking leafs for free, or any free service that aims just to show people that God loves them in a practical way with no strings attached. The people we are serving often say, “I have never felt so loved by a Christian” or “I have never heard of a church doing something like this just to tell me God loves me”. Over time we have seen the fruit of nudging people towards Christ through small acts of love.
If Stubby can use small genuine acts of love to bring me to a place where I admit that I love cats, how much more can God use our small, genuine acts of love overtime to bring an Unbeliever to a place where they accept Him.
Hang in there as the ball moves closer to the hole. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to have patience.