Has Jesus broken your heart?
One of the things I have noticed since taking on my new job as bishop of Wollongong is that people tend to love the place where they live and talk it up.
We as Christians need to go another step. We must not just love the place and the community we live in, but see things through Jesus' eyes. Luke tells us what happened as Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time. The city was prospering and yet we are told of Jesus that, "As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city he wept over it" (Luke 19:41). The word for "weep' here does not mean to tear up like a beauty queen but to weep loudly or mourn. What makes a man who worked on building sites until he was 30 weep publicly? Jesus saw so clearly the desperate need and the inevitable future of this city that had said "No' to God and his messengers again and again and again. They had said "No' so often that now the truth was hidden from their eyes. God had decided the time for judgement had come.
We live in a society that talks about peace and contentment, and yet we seem to grow further and further from both. We get richer but relationally poorer. Our weddings get bigger and our marriages get shorter. Our houses get bigger and our families get smaller. We communicate across the world without difficulty and can't talk across the dinner table. We live in a society that does not have peace with God. In fact the richer we become the more we ignore him and walk away.
So Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. Why? He knows the judgement day is coming. "The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side."
We know this happened just 40 years later when the Romans crushed the Jewish rebellion, completely destroyed the city and dispersed the Jewish people. Why did it happen?: "...because they did not recognise the time of God's coming to them.” Jesus sees the consequence of their rejection of their king, and he weeps for them.
We talk about Mission and the desire to reach percentages of the population, plant new churches etc. These are all good things but nothing will really be achieved until we see our communities through Jesus' eyes and share a heart that weeps for them. Jesus loved his city, loved his people and wept for them as he understood their desperate need of salvation. Have we really understood the fact that without Jesus the people we live among are on their way to hell? Even in our churches, I wonder how often we speak about this.
I have begun to pray that God might break my heart for the people of the Wollongong Region. That I might grieve over their lostness and so pray and work to see them come to know Christ.
The Christian life carries a strange contradiction: we are to be the people of great joy as we know the Lord and yet we are to be the people who weep over the lostness and need of the cities we love. Let us pray that God would break our hearts, that we might see cities and our communities as Jesus did and so pray and work for them to hear the message of God's forgiveness through His king.
The Rt. Rev Al Stewart was appointed Bishop of Wollongong in March 2007