Close to the Ultimate Sadness

I have a friend who is Buhddist.  He’s a really cool guy.  Smart.  Articulate.  Sensitive.  I really like him.  We both are well aware of our differences in our faith.  However, we genuinely appreciate time together.  We’ve been able to share our stories with each other of how we got to where we are.  He was brought up in a Christian home but lost some key loved ones in his immediate family when he was young.  He went to the church for answers.  Seeking truth.  Seeking some meaning in the chaos.  He found none.  This began a search for God and truth which led him to Buhddism.  It’s a pretty heart-wrenching story.  A sad story.

It gets sadder.

Recently we were at a gathering where Micki and I were invited by my friend to be together.  We were definitely outsiders, but considered ourselves privileged to be invited.  We wound up sitting next to an older couple who we later found out were retired from the ministry.  He was a pastor in Jackson for 30 years.  Through the conversation, I learned he was my friends pastor.  As a matter of fact, he was the pastor that too him to the hospital to identify one of his family members as a teen.  This was the pastor of his childhood.  Where he looked for answers but found none.  Where he looked for meaning and found none.  More importantly, where he looked for God and didn’t find him.

As I realized who this man was, I quickly changed gears and confronted him about it.  He had no idea that and had never put together any pieces of the puzzle.  As I began to unpack the pieces, he quickly shut down and didn’t respond.  His wife changed the topic.  We didn’t go back to that subject.  I wasn’t mean.  I wasn’t confrontational.  I was conversational. It was awkward.

As we drove back home in the car, I was grieving.  Grieving for my friend who is a faithful follower of a few nice ideas, but no hope.  And grieving because this pastor probably doesn’t know Jesus.  Replaying the conversation we had with them, I could easily see how this man feel into his profession because his dad was a pastor and it seemed natural.  He’s the pastor that is active in the Kiwanis, Rotary, does weddings, funerals, baptisms, and hospital calls.  He’s the social pastor.  He opens the church, maintains status quo, and probably doesn’t know Jesus.  Knows of Him.  And because he may not have known, he couldn’t comfort of point anyone to Jesus.  Including my friend.

How can you be a pastor and not be a Christian?  How can you be a pastor and miss Him?  Before you judge me for sounding judgemental, please pause.  I’m leaving out some detail to keep the people and story vague.  Please be sure of this.  My friend searched earnestly as a teen for God in the midst of one of his darkest hours.  He looked to his church.  He looked to his pastor.  The man I met this weekend.  And he found nothing.  You do the math.  You draw your own conclusions.

The ultimate sadness is the loss of my friend to a life without the Holy Spirit.  But even more is a pastor who may not know Jesus at all leading people in his churches for over 30 years to what?  God help us.  God help me.  Because the only way my friend will ever meet Jesus is by the power of the Holy Spirit breaking through in his life and people like me who will commit to praying for him.  I hope I’m never on the receiving end of a conversation like that.

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