“Little girl I say to you, arise,” Jesus spoke into death’s stillness. Then, as life crept back in and she stirred and sighed, he turned to her parents. “Give her something to eat,” he said.
There would soon come a time when he would call Lazarus back to life before a stunned crowd, but this was a moment of tenderness with only the girl’s parents and his closest friends. “Don’t tell anyone,” he cautioned.
Too often, when someone first believes in Jesus – especially someone famous – we rush to push them on stage, or sign a book deal, asking them to tell their stories while they still have an empty stomach. They have been raised to new life, but they still need something to eat.
How often have we fawned over our celebrity converts and then stood by and watched them shipwreck their faith? How often have we pushed new believers into the spotlight before they have a firm grasp of the faith they claim, and then watched them crumble under the pressure of our expectations?
We forget how we once lived in ignorance; how comfortable we were in the fog of unbelief. Isaiah describes it well: Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie? (Isaiah 44:20)
It takes time to put off the old ways of thinking as we put on the new. It is a lifelong pursuit to discover truth, and to live it.
The Bible describes our growth in faith as a gradual progression from suckling milk to chewing meat. None of us stepped into Christianity with a firm grasp of theology or a mature understanding of how to live out our faith through the ups and downs of ordinary days, much less navigate the shock of sudden tragedies.
However, there is a tendency among believers to think that testimonies from the beautiful, the famous or the notorious lend us a cultural cachet in the world, and so we rush to capitalize on it, frequently to the detriment of God’s glory.
We are eager to showcase dramatic testimonies with happy endings, forgetting that there are yet many miles to go on our faith journeys, many of them difficult. The limelight is a harsh and unforgiving place to grow.
So, do we stop new believers from telling their stories? Not at all! Telling others how Jesus rescued us from the darkness is exactly what every believer should be doing, whether it happened yesterday or fifty years ago. I’m simply suggesting that we stop pushing others into the spotlight of our expectations, making them into our trophies to prop up our standing before a hostile world. Only Jesus can stand up under that weight. The rest of us should merely point to him.
No, the ones just brought from darkness to light, from death to life – don’t look to them to be our heroes. Instead, rejoice with them. Nurture them. Mentor them. Teach them.
Give them something to eat.