And so she weeps: Why? Why can’t people see the supreme value and beauty of Christ? Where is their desperation for God? And yet she sees that these people are suffering and longing for something more. As one by one her Japanese friends age and die, Ruble grieves: “It’s heartbreaking that so many people are going to hell, even though they’ve been told the truth. One day they’ll remember and regret not taking the truth seriously.”
Ruble reminded me of my father, who’s a Korean missionary to the Chinese people. I was 4 years old when he followed God’s calling into full-time missions, and I remember growing up in a tiny studio at a Bible college in Singapore, playing hopscotch and Power Rangers with other missionary kids from all over the world. I remember my father frequently telling me, “Today, 151,600 people died in this world. How many of them are now in God’s arms in heaven?” And his voice would always break, because we knew that, most likely, the majority of these souls were not with God. Heaven is for real—and so is hell.
It’s a sobering and terrifying fact that many of us Christians (especially me) somehow forget. We forget it in our daily mundane activities, forget it in the way we read the news, engage in politics, and interact with our neighbors. We forget it in the way we choose and perform our jobs, date and marry, and raise our kids. We even forget it when we worship and pray—and that’s when I notice my own relationship with God turning stale, because by then all I’m doing is murmuring, murmuring, murmuring a stream of consciousness without awe and wonder for my undeserved salvation from eternal damnation.
I used to tell my father to stop being so dramatic. I have so often seen him weep at the pulpit—with sobs and trembling words and tears rolling down to his collar—as he preached about the masses who each day move one step closer to hell, about the sleeping self-professed Christians who still shuffle within the cell of religious works and lifeless rituals. I used to call my father a Weeping Jeremiah and admonish him, “Abba, you’re depressing the heck out of everyone. Will you stop it?”
But I later realized that Biblical characters also wept such tears: Isaiah, Hosea, Daniel, Nehemiah, Paul, Peter. None of these, though, dwelled on their tears. They cried, they repented, and then through their tears they preached the truth, even if their heart-wrenched words pinged off deaf ears. They also continued rejoicing, knowing they were sharing the afflictions and glory of Christ. (Jesus, too, wept over the stiff necks of His people: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” [Matthew 23:37].) But I wonder: If there are an estimated 2.2 billion Christians in this world, how many of us share this kind of lament and joy?
I remember singing the worship song “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons & Daughters at my church one recent Sunday. As 300 congregants from all ethnicities and ages and professions sang in one voice, “Shout it! Go on and scream it from the mountains, go on and tell it to the masses, that He is God!” I felt chills shiver down to my bones.
Imagine! What it would be like if that were true—that us members of this one church in the heart of Hollywood would scatter out to our relative social and professional webs singing and crying out “Hallelujah.” Imagine! What it would be like if we had the weeping missionary’s heart like Ruble’s and my father’s. What would happen? How would our city, our nation, and our world change? Somehow, I can’t imagine they would stay the same.