Being mis­tak­en about life, the things of God, and the human soul is a dead­ly seri­ous mat­ter. That is why the work of apolo­get­ics is so impor­tant. So we speak the truth in love (Eph­esians 4:15). And we speak with all the clar­i­ty and rea­son­able­ness we can muster, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly count­ing on the Spir­it of truth (John 16:13) to accom­plish, with what we do, an effect that lies beyond our nat­ur­al abilities.
– Dal­las Willard, The Allure of Gentleness

Allure” is such a gor­geous word. It is extreme­ly com­pelling when applied to the work of apologetics.

By God’s grace I was allured by gen­tle­ness at a very ear­ly age. My aunt and uncle took me in as a tod­dler when my par­ents weren’t able to care for me. My uncle worked for the Alaba­ma High­way Depart­ment as an engi­neer, but his first love was preach­ing. Dur­ing my for­ma­tive years we trav­elled around on week­ends so that he could preach in small rur­al con­gre­ga­tions that couldn’t afford a pas­tor. Look­ing back lat­er, I real­ize folks may have made a fuss over me large­ly because I had been tak­en in. But then, I just thought that church was the place you went where you were loved. 

When Uncle Ralph preached, it was my habit to squirm. And it was here, in my squirm­ing, that I had my intro­duc­tion to the allure of gen­tle­ness. Aunt Rubye would turn me around in the pew or chair, fold my hands on my lap … and then came the part I loved the most. She would gen­tly lift my chin and cup her hand around my ear, and her warm breath would whis­per into my ear, You need to be qui­et and lis­ten because God is try­ing to talk to you.” 

Dur­ing one of those invi­ta­tions, God did talk to me. I heard God through Uncle Ralph’s voice as he quot­ed John 10:27, My sheep hear my voice and they know me and they fol­low me.” And with the ears of a child, I knew I was a sheep. 

Anoth­er allur­ing invi­ta­tion came as I read Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Find­ing the Heart’s True Home. In its pages I heard the voice of an old­er broth­er, spo­ken with the same lov­ing invi­ta­tion as Aunt Rubye. I was being spo­ken to by some­one want­i­ng me to be clear about who God is, and who I am. I was being drawn by the real­i­ty of a God who want­ed me to live my life with him. 

Richard shared an image that cap­tured my heart and com­pelled a life­long desire and prayer to live in God’s pres­ence. It graft­ed an impres­sion of God’s love for me into my soul. Richard described the Prayer of Exa­m­en as God’s scruti­ny of love.” God is love. I could come to him as a child, with­out fear. God is my Father. God, near as my breath, is avail­able and want­i­ng to help me see what I’m doing and why. My Father’s love is a set­tled, com­pelling, secure real­i­ty. Good­ness and mer­cy are always fol­low­ing me.

It is a beau­ti­ful thing when a lost sheep, out doing God knows what, hears the voice of the Shep­herd. It is a mirac­u­lous thing when that lost sheep begins to see that she is known and loved and invit­ed into Life — when she learns she has a soul over­seen by a God who delights in and guards and keeps his sheep. Souls, like sheep, wan­der and lose their way. We are remind­ed, and priv­i­leged to remind oth­ers, that we sheep have a com­mon Good Shepherd. 

There is no sheep that the Good Shep­herd does not want to find. This Good Shep­herd, who died to redeem his sheep, calls out so they can hear his voice. Those who fol­low him will find their soul restored. We see the shep­herd heart of Jesus in John 4 as he must needs” go through Samaria to seek out a par­tic­u­lar woman. Like­wise we sheep are sought, and once found, com­pelled to share the good news. 

Each per­son, deep down, wants to know this love of God. So we speak the truth in love, with allur­ing lives and gen­tle and respect­ful words. Those of us who know the Good Shep­herd entice oth­ers because we have found the most beau­ti­ful and excit­ing way to live. Is there a more beau­ti­ful­ly allur­ing thing than that we are known, inside and out, by one who loves us, by the One we can return to again and again? We sheep just can’t — and nev­er were intend­ed — to make it on our own. Lit­tle flock, says God, it is my desire to give you the King­dom (Luke 12:32). It’s hard to fath­om an invi­ta­tion from a God like that to wan­der­ing sheep like us. Once over­whelmed by the beau­ty of this God and his King­dom, we’re cap­ti­vat­ed — green pas­tures and still waters for us! 

On Fri­day morn­ings I meet with a small group of women. For over a year we read through The Allure of Gen­tle­ness: Defend­ing the Faith in the Man­ner of Jesus. We shared about the voic­es that had spo­ken into each of us. We described our images of God. We lis­tened, we learned, we unlearned. We cried togeth­er in a safe place. We entered into the Mys­tery of things we couldn’t under­stand. We revealed our pain over bro­ken rela­tion­ships and ques­tions of unan­swered prayer, the prob­lems of sin, sick­ness, and the pres­ence of evil. We looked to Jesus as our mod­el for liv­ing. We rejoiced in the ways we each had been allured by gen­tle­ness (and lament­ed over ways we had not) in our par­tic­u­lar lives. We took time to lis­ten, to help one anoth­er think about life. We saw the ways hur­ry and wor­ry were rob­bing us. 

I like to think that my lit­tle group is doing apolo­get­ics in ways Dal­las would have enjoyed, and lis­ten­ing to life togeth­er in ways Richard would cel­e­brate. Togeth­er we are help­ing one anoth­er love God with our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Through the Spir­it, indi­vid­u­al­ly and cor­po­rate­ly, we are aware (and we remind each oth­er when we for­get) of the good ways we are being invit­ed into life with God. See­ing the beau­ty of Christ in one anoth­er, cel­e­brat­ing the fact that God is with us, we are becom­ing the allur­ing­ly attrac­tive, fas­ci­nat­ing­ly win­some women we were cre­at­ed to be — the per­sons we are tak­ing into eternity.

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