Again, I had not heard anything from my friend for a good long time ( over a year ); in fact, I had begun to wonder if he was dead!
Just the other day, though, I heard the old, familiar strains of 'Amazing Grace' by the Statler Brothers emanating from my phone. As I eagerly answered the call with a hearty 'Hello!', he interrupted me in his usual brusque way, wondering why I had not called him. I tried to explain to him that I had received no answer when I tried calling him and that I had left numerous messages for him, but never heard back, so I stopped calling after several months. 'Likely excuse', he said, 'my phone busted on me, and I lost your number' ( he's really good at giving one a guilt-complex! )!
Whether because of my guilty feelings or for some other reason; I just decided to let my friend ramble on, and ramble he did! He began his story by revealing to me a history that sounded strangely similar to my own, and one that showed me that I had made some untrue and unworthy assumptions about my friend! 'I have MS', he said.................Hastily, my first response was, 'oh man, I'm so sorry, I didn't know.........' Again, he ( quite rudely ) cut me off; 'SHUT UP!', he said, 'let me finish!' 'I didn't say anything at first because I didn't want you to feel sorry for me; I wanted you to fellowship with me because YOU wanted to, NOT because you felt obliged, out of some need to show charity or something!' I tried to explain to him that I could empathize, that I knew exactly where he was coming from, but he was on a roll, so I let him roll! He went on to explain that his wife had left him, after a 15 year marriage, for what reason, he didn't say, but that his 'radio silence' was also somewhat caused by all the drama he had been going through in the past years.
As he unraveled his story before my listening ears, I was unpleasantly surprised to hear how closely his life experiences related to mine! Before I had a chance, though, to reveal this to him; he, seemingly 'out of the blue', asked me this simple, but stunningly profound question: 'why are we here, Charles?' Somewhat caught off guard ( I'm sure that was his purpose ), I managed to stammer, 'for our good and His glory', all the while racking my feeble brain for the catechism answer that I had memorized as a child. 'We are here', he reminded me ( although I knew this, he just caught me off guard ), 'to be Christ to the unbelieving world around us'! I had to admit; that was a good way to put it. When Jesus walked this earth, to whom did He minister? Was it to the Pharisaical Jews, those who thought they had everything they needed, including salvation in their religious ideals ( which actually were mere idols ), or did He minister to those who were unbelieving, those who had a life that was full of sin, and followed no creeds or even worshiped in a four-walled enclosure ( the Temple )?
'Why ARE we here?'
By his question, my friend had set off an avalanche ( no doubt his purpose, again ) in my head! If we were here to be Christ to an unbelieving world, did that mean that we were to act as He did? Were we to act in love to those who were outside, and who even acted, seemingly in hate, or defiance of Him, and thus, us, and laughed at our own feeble efforts to 'redeem' them? Do we act toward those we deem outside as if they are meant to stay outside, as if they are 'vessels of wrath', as were the Pharisees? If we were to go that route, we might end up saying that we ARE looking for another eschaton! Are the dispies and full or partial-futurists right? Is Jesus going to return at the end of time in judgment on the wicked? Well, of course now I'm starting to get ridiculous! We know that the eschaton was finished in the first century, that Jesus did return ( as promised ) and punished those 'vessels of wrath', for they had been 'prepared for destruction'. To top it all off was Jesus' promise of dwelling in His people, in John 14:23; 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'!
There is no question that we have many Christians today who act like Pharisees, who seem to rest almost more in their creeds and their religion, trusting that their religion will be their salvation, rather than focusing on the Master of the Universe, and on what they believe about Him, as much or more than on what He did and what we, as little Christs, should be doing. So many of us are quicker to break fellowship with other believers over matters of belief ( religion ) than with unbelievers! Rather than being the healing leaves ( Revelation 22:1-3 ) that we were meant to be, it seems that in the history of the world, Christians have done as much harm as they have good ( yes, this may be argued )! We can trust, thankfully in the fact that it His purpose that is accomplished, not ours, and that 'If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself'; even through our often faithless, and always feeble actions, His will and purpose is done! ( I should point out here that we are still responsible for our faithless actions, and 'reap what we sow' )
All the while I was turning these thoughts over in my head like a large heap of compost, my friend had been rambling on ( I hope I didn't miss anything important ). He was now relating to me how, now that his wife had left, and thus, much of the stress had melted away, his MS had not been affecting him as badly. Now, instead of being wheelchair-bound, as he was when his wife was still with him; he, like me, had experienced a resurrection of sorts, wherein he was able to stand ( and walk ) on his own two feet again! As he related his subsequent experiences to me, chills ran up and down my spine; I knew I had to get off the phone pretty quickly, or else I was gonna have to find my Kleenex. I rather haltingly told him then how closely our lives had paralleled over the years and could tell right away that I was not the only one who was having trouble keeping his composure!
Quickly changing the subject ( thank you God ); my friend mentioned that he had heard that I was embarking on a new journey, and had even written a few lines in that regard ( he sometime reads my blog ). 'I heard that you are in danger of becoming even more of a heretic', he said, 'getting all extra-biblical and calling even those who have not entered into Covenant with their Creator 'children of God'! 'Yes', I replied, 'I have been trying to reach logical conclusions on those subjects, trying to search out in my own mind how far beyond the eschaton we can, or ought to go'. 'Because all Scripture is fulfilled; how far do we go in living our lives as little Christs, as healing leaves?'
'Well, brother', he said huskily, 'keep searching, and may God give you grace as you travel; goodbye!'
God; I love that man!