When you love Jesus, you want other people to know him and walk in his love. You want other people to experience his grace, resting in him, having an identity that isn’t caught up in the confusion of this world. These are natural feelings, evidence of Jesus’ work in your life — if we know him, we want more people to know him!
At the same time, it’s very easy to get our roles in the salvific process mixed up with God’s, thinking that their salvation (choosing to know God and realizing his love for us) is our responsibility. We become rescuers, instead of representatives for the one that we love — Jesus.
I’m a recovering rescuer — I once (twice? thrice?) tried to rescue a person I loved. I tried to say the right things, present the right apologetics, maintain a gracious attitude — and despite my general success in these attempts, the person still didn’t seem to want to know God. As time passed, my futile efforts wrought havoc upon my spiritual life because I had taken on something that only God can do.
Dangers of Being a Rescuer
I’m a little embarrassed to explain how these things affected my spirit, and I blushed as I wrote these things out, but I share them in the hopes to help other people not fall into the same stronghold!
- I got discouraged because the person didn’t seem any more interested in knowing God than when we first met
- I felt like I was responsible for this person not accepting Christ
- I got nervous before we would speak, feeling like I had to know all the answers/say the right things/have the right body language
- I would mull over how the discussion went afterwards
- Maybe I should say it this way… was a common train of thought
- I felt like I was doing something wrong
I wanted this person to know Jesus! But, at the same time, I got caught up in being the rescuer instead of the representative and felt discouraged by what I perceived as my failure.
As God showed this to me over time and as I realized my cycle of discouragement was repeating itself, I began to see that God’s timing is perfect and better than our own and that prayer is far more powerful than my planning, mulling, and myriad attempts to do something right. Prayer molds you into a representative anyway, so if you’re concentrated on Jesus, being a true representative just happens. As I tried to shift my perspective, I began to see the benefits of being a representative of God instead of a rescuer.
Benefits of Being a Representative
- Being encouraged in the Lord, knowing that every window for a conversation about him is proof that he is moving in another person’s life
- No responsibility for another person’s salvation
- New intimacy with God as you see that he puts the words in your mouth when you come before a judge
- New desire to listen to the Holy Spirit — I don’t know how this person needs to be loved, but Jesus does
- Freedom afterward from evaluating my “performance” – I obey God, the end
- Knowing that if I really do mess up big time (it happens), God loves this person far more than I do and he can prove himself to that person better than the best representative could anyway. (This isn’t a free pass, but a recognition of grace.)
The turning point in my transformation was understanding more about the idea of a rescue as it relates to salvation. Salvation is the ultimate rescue – knowing and walking with God, saved from our flesh. And here’s the kicker, and why I wasn’t a good rescuer: It’s a miracle.
Salvation is always a miracle, regardless of age, your family of origin, or life circumstances. Salvation is always an act of God. Of course, God uses people as representatives to help them understand what kind of God he is and to demonstrate his love. He can and does work miracles through us, but miracles always point to and originate in God. Representatives are important, but if we look at the ultimate rescue as being salvation, only God is the Rescuer. Not I!
A place in scripture that really speaks to this is Matthew 11:28-30.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
God gives us rest…he gave me rest, in my soul. He freed me from the heavy burden of responsibility for another’s salvation, helping me see that my job is really just to love God. Everything flows from that, and everything comes back to that.
© Olivia Davis, all rights reservedPhoto by Unsplash User:Sebastian Grochowicz