One of my dad’s dominant love languages is “gift giving.” From an early age, he would love to send boxes of beautifully wrapped gifts for Christmas and our birthdays. As I got older and began to have children of my own, my requests also matured. I began to ask for practical gifts; items that I would probably never purchase myself but would greatly improve my quality of life and serve a greater purpose. Less and less, I desired gifts given for aesthetic purposes: gifts that only looked good or made me feel good that would eventually end up tucked away in a tote in the back of my closet once they had lost whatever appeal they once held. Instead I desired gifts that served a greater purpose in my life: a new bake ware set, a journal, a wireless mouse for my laptop, my Graduate Record Exam. These are all gifts that I have received that are still very much a part of my life. They made an impact. The problem with gifts is that sometimes we take them for granted. We misuse or misunderstand the gift and the giver and therefore can never fully appreciate what has been given.
Salvation is the greatest gift any one of us could have ever been given, but so many have rejected the gift and the giver because essentially, they haven’t grown up yet. They are still chasing what makes them look good or feel good and rejecting what will make the greatest impact and change their lives forever.
Last night, I watched a movie with my husband entitled “Jonestown: A Paradise Lost” about Jim Jones, the self-proclaimed savior who on November 18, 1978 required his followers to lay their lives down in protest to the United States and out of loyalty to him. Some of them refused and subsequently, were murdered by his followers but many of the occult willingly sacrificed themselves out of allegiance to a broken, fallen man. A man who struggled with drug addiction, insecurities, and fear had convinced them that his love for them was bigger and better than any other love they would ever experience. I felt uneasy watching the reenactment of men and women force-feeding their infants and toddlers cyanide-laced kool-aid. My heart grieved for them as they lay there, sheep led to the slaughter deceived by a wolf that had offered love, peace, and paradise and had delivered only fear, sorrow, and despair. I felt ashamed as I came to the realization that my grief was also lined with relief. Relief that none of Jones’ zealots lived to further spread his doctrine of selfishness and pride. Relief that none of the children indoctrinated with his poison had been rescued to train their own disciples here in America.
I went to sleep that night plagued with the inconceivable capacity for evil that lies deep within mankind. I dreamed that I found myself in Jonestown among believers and nonbelievers alike neither of whom I could completely trust. Fear shrouded me as I navigated my way through this experience. I pretended to eat and drink with them on the night we were all given the orders to die. I pretended to be one of them. I watched them die alongside me. I awoke from the nightmare, my stomach in knots and my spirit perplexed.
Though I left that fictitious Jonestown in the recesses of my subconscious, I awoke in my own Jonestown. A place where people have subscribed to lies and false promises over truth. Where they are dying on the left and right side of me. Where they are lost, and empty, and searching, but at the same time refusing to accept the cure. There is, however, one major difference to my dream and my reality. I will not sit by and watch them be deceived. I will not pretend to be one of them in order to protect my own life. I will proclaim truth in love in an attempt to remove the wool covering their eyes. I will stand up and stand out for Christ in the midst of this broken and fallen world.
Grace has run out for the 908 that died that evening. Their fate has been sealed and judgment has been passed. But my heart still breaks for the millions more who are running after what makes them happy. The ones who lust after what this world has to offer, the fleeting and temporal pleasures of this very short life, yet continue to reject the one who gave His life so that life would be worth living. I ponder how an atheist could bear living in such an evil and broken world with no hope for redemption and salvation. I weep for the Christians who believe they have found salvation but have merely placed Jesus on the shelf of their hearts. Like a porcelain collectible they can show off to company, His only purpose is when and how He accentuates their own pride and selfishness.
Jim Jones told his followers he was giving his life for them, but he had given up on life and the giver thereof. He was throwing in the towel but was too afraid to go it alone. Those people gave their lives without cause. There will be no harvest for the seeds they’ve sown. I encourage you to give your life to a cause greater than yourself. Pledge your allegiance to the only One who has truly died for you and me: Jesus. He has offered the grace of salvation, a gift that can only be accepted through faith. The greatest gift any one of us could receive is to become one with Him. It won’t always feel good, but our lives with never be the same.