This weekend I had the amazing privilege of leading two young men to Christ. Since both happened within 24 hours, each occurring at my local church youth retreat, I immediately became aware of just how different witnessing from one person to the next really is. While God’s Word itself is unchanging, it’s so powerful, living, and active that it is sufficient for all people regardless of age, intellect, culture, or economic background. One of the young men I shared the Gospel with has a severe learning disability. While I cannot, nor should not, go into speculation as to why or the details of his home life, I will share that it would be similar in magnitude to severe autism.
During our final day at the retreat, I wanted to present 1 last opportunity for those who felt the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, to be called to faith in Christ. This particular young man raised his hand, indicating that he would like to know more about how Christ could be his Savior. As we begin to go over Scripture and pray, it became evident that his inability to understand what he was reading was becoming a stumbling block to understanding God’s Word. In my flesh, I could feel frustration rise, as here was a young man who wasn’t coerced, manipulated, or guilted into the Gospel; no prayer, altar call, or isle walking. Just a simple desire to know Christ, raising his hand to indicate that desire and I have no way to communicate the glorious truths of God’s Word to him. After praying again and going over truths again, I simply stopped and asked him, “Why did you raise your hand when I asked who wanted to know Christ?” His response was “Because I realize I’m a sinner and I need to accept Christ as my Savior.” There it is, don’t miss the simplicity of that. It’s repentance and faith. No intellectual assent or regurgitation of theological facts about atonement, no comprehension of even spiritual life and death, but the mind of a child exhibiting child-like faith in recognition of sinfulness and a desire to know Christ as Savior. I encouraged both of these young men to begin reading the Gospel of John and thankfully, as the Lord wills, I will be able to follow up with both.
Some people reading may object and say a person must have understanding of X,Y, and Z or must be able to articulate particular theological facts. But before you climb out on that limb, let me ask is intellectual capability and reasoning a prerequisite for knowing the Gospel? If so, I would caution you to examine your own theology and realize that apart from God’s Holy Spirit regenerating the heart and enlightening the mind, no one, including the intellectual, can accept Christ as Savior.
There are no doubt times when explaining deep theological truths are necessary when witnessing. And no doubt, the experience I just shared is a rare and unique situation as one would normally expect a person to fully comprehend and apply the truths of the Gospel to their own lives. However, we cannot, indeed we must not, hinder the work of the Spirit in the minds and hearts of children, mentally handicapped, or those with severe learning disabilities. The wind blows where it wishes and so too does the Spirit giving life to whom He wills.
(Footnote: I realize there is no physicaldistinction between the “heart” and mind and therefore seek to only make distinction as far as the Bible does in Mark 12:30 and related Romans 10:9. That is to say, let us save that debate for another day)