A few weeks ago I visited with a Muslim patient. I was excited as I entered the room and the visit lasted about 45 minutes long, and I was blown away by our conversation. I went in the room just wanting to build trust and make a connection for a follow up visit where there could be an invitation to talk about religion. Now I can’t go into specifics of the visit, or even tell you much more than that. But, I left feeling burdened, so much on my shoulders as I stepped away from his room and moved on to the next rooms. I left with the thought; this was a man of God. As I left the parking garage, the visit and the dialogue continued to be pressed in my heart.
One thing I will share the patient told me as I was leaving the room,” I know we have differences in our two faiths ( I never once indicated my particular faith tradition to him) but we serve a God who heals all and is mighty , no other can compete.”
The problem I was having was this man impressed me with his heart, his faithfulness to God through all of his trials that he had endured. I know I am just hearing one side of the story and do believe there is two sides to every story, but the patient really spilled his heart to me and his words spoke honesty. Now, I’ve never been one to judge,(at least I try not to) I try my best to leave that up to God, but everything I had learned said clearly that this man was going to hell because he did not profess Jesus Christ as Lord in his life. This struck me and has convicted me to discuss the issue and talk about my thoughts.
My faith is not changing, and I’m not pulling away from the notion that Jesus Christ is Lord in my life, I believe that with all my heart and it continues to build in my life. The problem I have is the God I know and worship is a God who can be defined by so much, but the God I’ve come to know is a God of love and mercy and kindness, one who is faithful in His love to me. Can’t God be loving to those who love Him?
I have this man expose all in his life, and my traditional beliefs tell me this man is going to Hell, I have a hard time accepting that notion. Especially since Jesus himself said it so clearly in the gospel when Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Clearly this man needs Jesus I keep telling myself, but how do I show Christ’s love to this man, without preaching and forcing my beliefs?
The question I have is what if I said this verse to the man, and started preaching to him and told him he was going to hell that the only way he could speak to God was through Jesus Christ. Well I can tell you I would have lost all trust and rapport I had worked so hard to develop and I also would have received some puzzled looks as well, because this man clearly showed he had a relationship with God. How do I reconcile this thought that someone can be faithful to God without professing Jesus Christ? Is it possible to love God without knowing the Son?
Another point I would like to bring up is that many would say I missed an evangelizing moment here with this patient, but I cannot reiterate enough in my work as a chaplain that I come to meet patients where they are and meet their spiritual needs. My job is to minister to those I come in contact with, not minister to my own needs and desires. But again I feel convicted by scripture that instructs me to preach the gospel to all I come in contact with, but my job is not evangelizing but comforting. I worry at times when God looks down at my work, and He doesn’t hear His name once in a visit if I let Him down. I’ll be honest I have several visits where God is never brought up. I have many visits where I have lonely people looking for ears to hear their stories. I am there for all I come in contact with, and I pray that they see the love of Christ in my words and in the way I present myself.
O Lord, have mercy on my soul when I do not know the answers to the problems I encounter on my walk.