DO YOU DRIVE PEOPLE TO JESUS OR AWAY FROM HIM?
By Ernest O'Neill
Do You Drive People to Jesus or Away From Him?
By Rev. Ernest O'Neill
When I was in Belfast I was a liberal Methodist minister and I probably didn’t know any better; I really wasn’t sure if this was God’s wording, so that leads to a lot of trouble. I was a working in a city mission in Belfast and city mission work in European cities is involved a lot in helping people -- poor people who have not enough food, not enough clothing and then of course it’s a very Evangelistic outreach on Sundays and Saturdays. So I was involved in a city mission and at times in doing funerals in different parts of the intercity and one of these funerals that I did when I was a young Methodist minister who really knew very little, but I was involved in going to this house and conducting the funeral. There was a little pastor there who was doing a prayer; I was doing the big thing, and he was doing a little prayer. It was a case of the old saint and a young one. I discovered that this man’s name was Pastor Evans and he was a saintly man and an Evangelical preacher and had been for years in Belfast; one of those saints that you rarely meet. I got into conversation with him, and we met several times after that and talked. He told me he was Welsh, and he had that Welsh lilt to his voice. He told me about a certain situation, he presumably knew where I was, and knew what God had to say to me through him. He told me a story about a barman who was converted in his services in a little hall called the Iron Hall. I think it was called that because of an iron roof the rain rattled down on all the time. So he had a barman that was converted in the services who prayed through and received Jesus and came into a real relationship with him. He said, "Pastor Evans, I am a barman, I serve in a bar in Belfast. I suppose I have to give up my work." And I thought that Evans, being an Evangelistic preacher, would say surely that’s the devil’s place; you should be well out of the bar and get into some Christian work of some kind. But Evans replied to him in that Welsh voice, “No good boy, no; don’t leave the bar; you stay in your job and you pray for your customers and you witness to them.”
That’s exactly what that guy did. It was interesting to me, as a kind of a liberal guy in those years, to realize that here was a man, who surely must stick closer to this word [the Bible] than anybody else I knew, and yet when it came to that situation, he said “Get your relationship with Jesus right, and then do what he tells you. Don’t get rail-roaded into legalism -- either in your beliefs or in your practices.” And loved ones it seems to me while we listen to God’s word and take that attitude “let not him who eats despise him who abstains for God welcomes him” while we take that attitude not only to each other, but especially to ourselves, the life of Jesus and the life of God will remain alive inside us in a sensitive and gracious way. Whenever we turn from that daily interview with Jesus and we begin to hammer out these views “that all Christians have and that I have therefore I am a Christian”, or these things that “all Christians do and that I do therefore I am a Christian” the whole beauty of Christianity disappears from your life and you become one of those hard-nosed Evangelicals that drive people away from Jesus instead of driving them to him.