11. Written on Their Foreheads

Then I looked, and there was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion and with him were 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of cascading waters and like the rumbling of loud thunder. The sound I heard was like the harpists playing on their harps. They sang a new song before the throne and before the the four living creatures and the elders, but no one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.

Revelation 14:1-3

I got my first tattoo when I was 22. It is the welsh word for ‘thank you’ and I debated with myself for a while over whether I should put it on my arm or my back. I ultimately chose my arm so that I could see it all the time and be reminded of the women it honours – my grandmother.

I love the imagery of these 144,000 undefiled believers who were redeemed from the earth to follow the lamb wherever he goes (v. 4). While it’s not tattooed there, I believe that the mark of my baptism – the sign of the cross on my forehead – is spiritually visible and it would be so cool if it could be physically visible on redemption day and I could follow the Lord around forever.

I have been praying that this pandemic would result in revival. That the people of the earth would see that the only hope we have lies in Jesus. That the only freedom from fear is the promises of the saviour. But the sad news is, I’m not seeing it.

That’s not to say it’s not happening, it’s just not happening in my little world. The people that I long to know the freedom of Christ’s love haven’t had a life altering “come to Jesus” moment. The things that drive me into the loving arms of the Father don’t seem to effect others in the same way. And so as my province prepares to loosen the restrictions on social distancing a bit, a part of me feels like this incredible opportunity to speak life has slipped through my fingers.

Except, here’s the thing: it was never in my fingers to begin with. As much as I want to believe that me showing God’s love to my friends will be enough to point them to Jesus, the truth of the matter is that it never will. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that someone can know the Father and the hard, impossible reality that I came face to face with today is that it’s not going to always happen.

Maybe this is just the brokenness that we have to sit in. That, because of the fall, we just have to accept that things that are broken might stay broken forever. Maybe on earth some of our stories just won’t have a happy ending. Yes, God promised that we as believers will be redeemed and perfect justice will reign, but that doesn’t mean that at the end of our lives we will be able to tie it all up in a bow; as we close our eyes for the very last time we can smile back and say it was all perfect. We will be able to say it was all good, but never perfect.

What we have to do is love our people assuming they will never get saved. Love them with a radical love that doesn’t try to serve them, but to serve God. I have always thought that if I loved hard enough, served well enough, said the right thing at the right moment, my friends would see Jesus. But Jesus walked among, taught beside, ate with, and relaxed with so many people who would never acknowledge that he was Lord. And yet he gave himself for them too. To love them with wanting absolutely nothing – not even their own salvation – in return is the kind of sacrificial love that Jesus gave to everyone. And by practicing it we will become more like him, which is always our ultimate goal.

I hope that this doesn’t leave you discouraged. I believe that God can do amazing things. Radical, unimaginable, unbelievable things. And I believe that he hears our prayers when we beg him to draw near to our loved ones. But it’s not up to us. While we should never stop humbly praying for their salvation, we also should never assume that we can get them there ourselves.

Maybe the revival wasn’t meant for the people who have never seen God. Maybe it was meant for us.

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