Where God Meets Man

 
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One of my favorite stories in the Bible is when God goes searching for Adam and Eve after they have fallen into sin. He calls out to them, “Where are you?” It is one of the earliest glimpses into the heart of God’s everlasting love. But as much as I love this story, I often found myself failing to emulate this picture of perfect grace when I first entered my teaching program in Los Angeles. I was learning in a liberal social justice-driven program and disdained its teachings because of my conservative upbringing. During every class, I felt superior to my classmates as I analyzed and critiqued the secular ideas which were taught.

But despite this arrogance, I had the unshakeable conviction that God had placed me in my program to pursue after my classmates in the same way He pursued after Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Initially, I thought that the best way to do this would be to shift every conversation I had towards Jesus. But as I continued trying to steer these conversations, there would be multiple moments when I was uncomfortable and the exchanges felt awkward and disingenuous. After careful reflection of why it was so difficult to share the Gospel with my classmates, I realized that my shortcomings were due in part to the apprehension I felt toward engaging secular culture, the difficulty in letting go of my insecurities, and my failure to genuinely love people. Consequently, these issues needed to be addressed.

First, I was uncertain about how to interact with individuals with a secular worldview. I had a conservative upbringing which often painted a fear that the secular worldview would win out against the Christian one and result in the oppression and disenfranchisement of Christians. Because of this, I did not know how to lovingly approach individuals with radically different ideas than me. I carried the fear that I would be ceaselessly attacked for my ideas or rejected in my intimate setting of 16 classmates. But through conversations with my classmates, I noticed that we had more similarities than I had thought. We all sought after justice, love, and compassion for the marginalized. As a result, I had to stop being fearful or prideful toward people with different ideologies and appreciate our common values.  

Second, I had to face my own lostness and depend upon Jesus in order to develop real relationships with my classmates. I thought that to be an effective testament of the Gospel, I had to always have a certain degree of control over my life. While my classmates were worrying about their studies, I had to be stress free because I had to be different in order for my classmates to see the light of God in me. However, I found that people related more to my struggles than my facade. In the same way that God displayed genuine emotions of anger and sadness after the fall of Adam and Eve, I had to be genuine with my classmates. Only through this authentic sharing of life could the Gospel be shared with my classmates.  

Finally, I had to love my classmates with my time and effort. It was not enough for me to only care about their spirituality; I had to care about their stressful moments in the classroom, the pain they experienced with family, and even our irreconcilable ideologies, beliefs, and values. In other words, I had to care about the entirety of their personhood. Before God calls out to the lost humanity, He walks into the garden. God had previously consistently fellowshipped with and loved his precious creation with natural and fatherly love. In the same way, I came to understand that evangelism must be prefaced with friendship and relationship. While God did not approve of what Adam and Eve did and had to exile them from Eden, “Where are you?” became His rallying cry for setting in motion a plan to rescue humankind from their lostness.

The great Dutch theologian, Henri Nouwen, once said, “Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love.” It is this beautiful voice of love that everyone--even the most antagonistic co workers, classmates, families, or friends--longs to hear in the depths of their soul. In His unfathomable grace, God has made it our privilege to not only share, but also to embody His voice. Through our obedience to this call, a fallen humankind may walk from the shade of the trees in the garden to the foot of the tree upon which the Most High won their eternal victory. 

 

Jeremiah Yang (@jeremiahhyang) received his B.A. in Economics from University of California, Santa Barbara and is currently pursuing his Master of Education at University of California, Los Angeles.

 
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