Reaching the Ones We Would Rather Avoid
By Lysa TerKeurst
There were many places I had dreamed of visiting in the Holy Land. Sights and sounds I anticipated would move my heart deeply as I walked where Jesus walked and saw what Jesus saw.
So, I have to admit … when our guide pulled over to the side of the road at an unmarked, unremarkable-looking place, I was underwhelmed. We filed out of the bus with a vague sense we were studying something in the book of Acts.
There were no signs in this part of the Holy Land.
No other tourists.
Our teacher walked to a place covered with brush and pointed to a rocky path. We gingerly made our way behind him and soon came upon a road:
With great enthusiasm, the teacher said, “This road is where a man learned of Christ and received the Good News!” We walked a little farther and saw this hole:
“This place of water is where this man was baptized shortly afterward and went away rejoicing. We should rejoice! We should rejoice!”
And then we opened the Scriptures to Acts 8:26-39, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch.
Can I admit something to you I’m not very proud of? Even after reading the Scriptures, I wondered why our teacher picked this spot. We had so little time in Israel and wanted to see so much. I felt like there were bigger events that had taken place in much more well-known places. Shouldn’t we focus on those?
Why this place? Why this story?
And then as quickly as we arrived, our teacher whisked us back on the bus with one final statement, “Individuals matter.”
Those two words have lingered in my thoughts and have honestly made this underwhelming stop one of my favorites to consider.
Recently, I opened Acts 8 and reread it. Here are three things from this Scripture I want to let have their way with my heart and mind:
Verse 29, “The Spirit told Philip, ‘Go to that chariot and stay near it.'”
This Ethiopian eunuch wasn’t like Philip. Not in his inner circle, comfort zone or part of his immediate sphere of influence. And yet, the Spirit instructed Philip to go close.
God help us. We must break out of the boxes of our normality and dare to go close to those we don’t understand. We must not use words like “those people” with pointed fingers, hardened hearts and spiritually superior attitudes.
By going close, we see things we need to see. We hear things we need to hear. And our hearts become tender in the way we must be tender.
By going close, we might actually dare to let love guide our approach.
Verse 30a, “Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet.” (NIV)
He ran. This took effort, energy and intentionality. Next, instead of wielding God’s Word like a weapon and haphazardly throwing Truth at this man, Philip listened.
Then based on what he heard, Philip asked this eunuch if he understood what he was reading. Philip discerned a need and sought to meet that need. Philip let the man’s agenda come before his own.
God help us. Instead of running alongside people seeking to understand them, we sometimes have tendencies to run them over with our agendas and perceptions and points of view. We must seek to be discerning, not demanding.
Earn the right to share.
Verse 31b, “… So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” (NIV)
Once Philip dared to go near and gain understanding, then he earned the right to share. Verse 35b goes on to reveal that Philip began where this man was studying in Scripture and “told him the good news about Jesus.” (NIV)
God help us. We must go to people. Listen to people. Start where they are, not where we want them to be. And from their point of need, lovingly share the good news about Jesus.
And might I share one more thing Philip did, that I love?
Philip continued to travel down the road with this man for a bit. Next, “As they traveled along the road, they came to some water … Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him” (Acts 8:36a, 37b, NIV). And the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
Looking back at that seemingly uneventful day in Israel, I’m so thankful our teacher took time to take us to that place. Remember, there were no signs and there were no tourists.
This was an uncommon stop in the Holy Land.
Might we all dare to be a little more uncommon, more often.
Lysa TerKeurst is president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and the New York Times bestselling author of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, Uninvited, and 20 other books. She writes from her sticky farm table and lives with her family in Charlotte, NC. Connect with her at LysaTerKeurst.com or on social media @LysaTerKeurst.