Concern for the welfare of loved ones is deep and will flow to concern for their eternal destiny.
16 ‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 ‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”
25 ‘But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
27 ‘He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”
29 ‘Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”
30 ‘“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
31 ‘He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’
The rich man died, was buried but continued to exist in deep distress. In some ways he did not fully understand his situation. He had not grasped that he was no longer in charge, so he was still expecting Lazarus to be dispatched to help him. As he spoke to Abraham, he clearly imagined that he could have easy communication with the other side but had to be reminded that was entirely impossible. Even with his request of Abraham concerning his brothers he was failing to understand that he was no longer in a position of influence. Nonetheless, he knew something of the impending fate of his brothers.
One thing he surely understood at this point was suffering; he was in the depths of it. Like even the most rebellious of sinners he also retained a connection to his family. The welfare of his brothers worried him. He clearly knew that their lifestyles and attitude to God were the same as his. They needed to wake up to their peril before it was too late. His request to Abraham says a lot. Firstly, he asks that Lazarus provide a “solemn witness” to his brothers so that they would not finish where he was. It needed to be a solemn witness because clearly the family had not taken God’s word to them seriously. Secondly, he clearly knew that he could do nothing to help them himself. Thirdly, this request is an answer to the foolish attitude that is sometimes encountered, when people who reject Christ expect an eternity, even apart from God, with their friends and family. There is clearly no thought of a joyful reunion with his brothers!
The lesson for us is that we will always have concerns for loved ones. While we and they are in this world, we can do something for them. Not necessarily what we might expect though. As we learn very often, it is not always helpful for us to bless them with our knowledge of God’s word; it is frequently received as anything but a blessing. From the answer that Abraham gave, it would be no help that somebody else go and talk with them. That would apply even if it was somebody who rose from the dead! Their need is certainly to hear the good news of Christ living, dying and rising for them, but it needs to be the good news of Christ coming to a heart that is prepared to receive it. That heart preparation is God’s work! The primary need for our not-yet-believing loved ones is that we cry out to God in prayer that he will overwhelm their life with the power of the Holy Spirit. That he would convict them of sin and soften their hardness against God so that they will be receptive to the gospel when we or somebody else brings it to them. We can pray for wisdom for our own witness. We can pray for the witness of others, but their greatest need is the witness of the Spirit of God in their heart and prayer for this must be unceasing.
Head: Be clear that the greatest need for your loved ones is that they know Christ, and this is by God’s grace.
Heart: It is entirely appropriate to be deeply moved by the plight of loved ones who are not yet believers.
Hands: Along with the best quality witness, we need the best quality prayers.
Prayer: Father, please overwhelm the lives of loved ones who have yet to come to faith. Please give them new birth, rest in Christ and your everlasting peace. In Jesus name. Amen
A song to listen to: Seek First
Living Church – Creek Road