Last month, my father was visiting his family in Lebanon when his sister and niece invited him to visit Cana with them. Some Lebanese believe that this ancient city of Cana is the location where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. My father was eager to do so, and made it a priority on this visit.
As my father, his niece, and his sister walked up to the historic site, the man standing guard called out to my aunt, “Hajji, what are you doing here?” My aunt, dressed in hijab, was easily identifiable as a Muslim as they entered, but my father and cousin are also Muslim.
“Are you going to stop me from seeing where he performed his first miracle?” my aunt responded. “Do you own Jesus?!” she asked. The guard was silent. He didn't anticipate my aunt’s strong response. He mumbled a few words and they went on to the site.
They continued into the cave where the miracle is commemorated. My father watched my aunt as she was overwhelmed by her emotions. Tears streamed down her face. Soon, they all were crying. This was a holy moment for them—three Muslims, standing in a cave, lighting candles to honor Jesus.
It was a moment I wish I could have been there to see. But this moment, while unique in its own way, is not a singular event. These moments happen every day, around the world. Moments where the God of heaven and earth invites his image-bearers into relationship with him. Moments where he reveals himself to people.
Herman Bavinck discusses these kinds of moments in his Reformed Dogmatics.
“…from the creation, from nature and history, from the human heart and conscience, there comes divine speech to every human. No one escapes the power of general revelation... General revelation is the foundation on which special revelation builds itself up.”
- Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena (Baker Academic, 2003), 1:321.
Sometimes in ministry, I get caught up in the lie that following Jesus and reflecting God’s love to others is about me, and what I do. I fall into the error of thinking that mission is a strategy and not about relationship, like it is something I can figure out in my head without it changing my heart and hands and feet. It is easier to objectify people, to put them in a box as “someone who needs my help” or “someone who can help me.”
But as Christians, we need to stop talking about people—whether youth in the church or Muslims or atheists—like they are a problem to be solved. We don’t own Jesus so it is not our job to offer Jesus to others. It is not and has never been God’s will that I “save” my father or my kids or my friends who don’t follow Jesus. God is already at work, revealing himself in and through the world he has created and continues to sustain. And God’s invitation to me has been to follow him by reflecting the love and mercy and grace of Jesus Christ in the place where God has planted me.
As Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Princeton Seminary Professor, once said, “Stop asking what would Jesus do and ask what is Jesus doing.”