We will never really know, on this side of heaven, the affect something we do or say has on another person. How God uses things like the hard times Paul had in his life and the changes God had led him to make in what he thought was the direction of God for him, is miraculous. Let me share this astounding event I heard of just Tuesday morning.
A wonderful friend who is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, Marshall Blalock, told me this story. We have all heard of the shooting tragedy at Mother Immanuel Church in Charleston. Most of us have heard how the family members responded to the shooter, but I doubt that you have heard this is part of this story.
Within 36 hours of the killing, Rev Anthony Thompson, whose wife had been killed by Dylan Roof, was present for the bond hearing. Roof was on video and the judge and family members were in the courtroom. One by one, the families got up and spoke to Roof who never looked up and remained stone-faced. Each family mentioned how hurt they were, how much they loved their murdered family member and then each one did the unthinkable...they all forgave him. They mentioned their faith in Christ and forgave this unrepentant killer. Anthony Thompson went to the hearing planning on being an observer and no more. But God prompted him to stand, and then to speak. He had no idea what he would say, but the Spirit spoke through him in that powerful moment. He told Roof he forgave him, but then he went one step further. He actually shared the gospel with him and offered him the hope of eternal life. He said, "What you really need is Jesus, you need to confess your sins and give your life to the one who loves you most, and you will be okay." The whole room was stunned. along with a national television audience. A man whose wife was killed in a hate crime showed grace to the killer and then invited him to trust in Jesus as his Savior.
Unbeknownst to Rev Thompson, two members of First Baptist Church in Charleston were serving as english teachers in China. Non-Christian Chinese neighbors watched the bond hearing, and they were struck with awe at what they heard. They knew their American neighbors were from Charleston, so they knocked on Adam and Stephanie's door, asking to talk. When they sat down, they said we have seen these families in Charleston speak of grace and of heaven. We know we need what these people have, can you tell us how we can have this life? This couple rejoiced in sharing the good news that day.
The takeaway, the grace of God is the most powerful force on earth. Nothing else comes close.