Monday, April 18, 2011

A Chance Encounter. . .

I had a chance encounter on an elevator at Elkhart General Hospital last Friday, which has been on my mind ever since. Ruby, our church secretary, had called me and said that Pastor was out of town and that someone needed to be visited at the hospital, so I ran over on my lunch hour to see them.

I was alone on the elevator. I was carrying my Bible bag, and wearing a jacket with a gold fish lapel pin, with the word ‘Jesus’ in the middle of the fish. At the last moment before the doors closed, a man maybe 10 years older than myself (mid sixties or so) approached and I stopped the elevator doors from closing and he entered. He also was carrying a Bible.

I had an uneasy feeling as I stood facing him across the elevator, as if he were sizing me up in some manner. He spoke finally saying, “I see by your Jesus lapel pin that you are a Christian.”. .

For some reason that struck me as an odd thing to say. . . for I surely do not think that wearing a lapel pin is what makes me a Christian. . .I meekly met his eyes as I replied only two words,”. . .I try. . .”. by my response I seemed to have given him the opening that he was in some way looking for. Maybe I read too much into his words, but I do think now. . .that I almost sensed glee at my answer. He started and said, very aggressively, words to some effect, I don’t know that I can quote them exactly. . .”I thought that if you abided in Christ and He in you that you were a Christian. . .” I did not want to get into a huge doctrinal discussion. . .I just wanted to visit the person in the hospital like Ruby asked me to. . .As we departed the elevator and I walked away, again I repeated. . .”I try. . .”

I don’t know where he went, but maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, he showed up at the same room, visiting the same person that I had gone to the hospital to visit. We acknowledged each other as he entered, but had no other words on our previous meeting.

All week, I’ve been thinking. . . puzzling on. . .meditating on. . .what makes one a Christian. I’m not interested in dictionary definitions. . .and please please PLEASE. . .I’m not wanting some huge angry shouting match on the topic.

The reason or reasons that I hesitate to easily and flippantly call myself a Christian are several:

#1 The word has been terribly abused. Truthfully I am greatly ashamed of our past. . .Terrible things have been committed by those calling themselves Christians and in the name of Christianity or in the name of Christ. When people hear the word Christian, oftentimes this past is what they think of. and I do not want any association with. . .I don’t want Jesus to be tainted by what has been done in His name.

#2 Nearly everyone in this nation, if asked would call themselves a Christian, but doing absolutely nothing to demonstrate that belief in their day to day lives.

#3 The closest thing I can come to my own personal definition of a Christian, is one who strives to be Christ-like. . .one who loves Jesus with everything within them. . . who loves Him with all their actions. . with all their thoughts. . .with their every breath they demonstrate their love of Jesus. . .and I fall so very far short of that so very often. I feel like an impostor claiming that name for myself. . .I can only say that. . .I try. . .

So in continuing to think about this, I reject the first label of Christian, the historic, as being tainted by the past. . .I reject the current label of Christian, as meaning nothing. To call yourself a Christian for most people today is meaningless and it is not meaningless to me. . .it has far too great and reverent a meaning such that I feel unworthy of it in its truest sense. . .

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