Why sit we here until we die?

Edwin N. Cross

Published as "Pause for Thought" article in Christian Service Bulletin, July 2007

In the far distant days of Elisha Samaria was besieged by the Syrians and grave hunger was endured by the population. Outside the gate were four lepers. They would either die of hunger outside the gate or if they ventured towards the Syrians they might pick up scraps from their encampment.

Their poignant question ‘Why sit we here until we die?' echoes down the centuries and resonates in my mind on a higher plane than physical need. The need of the testimony in the so called western lands is to rise up and do what is needed to stave off the death throes and to strengthen, in devoted activity, the things about to perish.

Do we crave as those four starving outcasts some morsel for our sustenance? Do we crave souls? William Easton wrote, ‘It is souls we want; and souls we go in for and mean to get. You may depend on this, that where there is a real, live gospel testimony and souls saved, there will be true happiness and less time for church troubles.' Do we want souls? Is there a thirst for the salvation of men? We used to call it ‘a love for souls' – does anyone still have this? The Lord thirsted for souls and one of those souls was mine. Does this not touch you are you not motivated? None of us like to venture beyond what we know is secure, even if it is akin to a starving leper colony. But most of us are in far more comfortable circumstances: and perhaps ease and comfort keep us fixed in an apathy that may lead to extinction. Will you sit in your cosy corners and not do anything for the gospel? or will you rise to seek increase for the Lord where you have been placed.

The narrative, probably well known, continues and the lepers go into the camp of Syrians and find an unseen army has routed them! What is their response? What would ours be? We find great treasure, we enjoy the meetings and conferences, Bible readings and Christian company, we read excellent books and rejoice in the labours of others on foreign fields. We have ‘the truth', an outline of sound words, but what are you doing in the gospel? The lepers came into fabulous blessing – we have the wonderful treasury of the Christian truth, a great salvation – their response was, ‘we do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace.' You do not do well if, in the day of good tidings, God's day of grace, you keep silent and do nothing for those still in need. The challenge of the words of those four lepers is real to me and I trust they will bear on your conscience to be up and telling the gospel to those still in danger and in need.