This past week I had the honor and blessing of being able to see Carl Medearis speak at a Perspectives class near my house.
About half way through his lesson, he said something that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since:
Several years back, Carl was given the opportunity to speak in a mosque in Lebanon. As he was walking up to the podium, the shah who was introducing him, tapped him on the shoulder and quickly asked him not to speak of Christianity, but simply of Jesus. (In our American-Christian minds, these two seem inseparable, but in most people’s realities, they’re not. Muslims believe that Jesus was a teacher and prophet, just as Christians believe that He is our Messiah and Savior.) So Carl chose to speak about Jesus as a teacher, sliding in tidbits about His life, love, and Ultimate Sacrifice on the cross as he went along.
At the end of his 45 minute time slot, Carl had run out of things to say. He had told all of the parables that he knew off the top of his head and was feeling stuck, so he tried to end his speech. But when he turned to walk away from the podium, he looked down to see the shah twirling his finger in midair, as if telling him to continue. “Continue? But my time is up…” He mouthed aghast, when a man stood out his seat and shouted, “YES! TWO MORE HOURS!” As he stood at the podium and stared out at the room packed with people, a murmuring of agreement went through the crowd.
This mosque full of men was so enthralled with the teachings of Jesus that they were begging him to continue. But Carl, internally panicking knowing that he was out of words, politely declined his half-request, half-command to continue, prayed, and walked off the stage, with his head hung low.
“I didn’t know anything else about Jesus. I was a “professional” Christian, a man who had given up everything in America to follow Jesus to the Middle East and I only had 45 minutes worth of knowledge about Him– My “Everything”, my Savior. I couldn’t believe it, and I knew that I never wanted to be in that position again.”
As I sat in my chair listening to him recount this story, I was stunned. My first thought? Oh my gosh, could I talk about Jesus for more than 45 minutes? Probably not. I’ve been a Christian for over 6 years, and I couldn’t even tell you more than maybe five of Jesus’ parables, at least not without butchering them. My second thought? AHHHHH! I’m about to give up the life that I love in Denver to go to school to (hopefully) become a Bible translator and I couldn’t even tell you more than five parables right now if you asked me to! Crap!
Hearing Carl talk about these things made me realize a third thing also… albeit later on in my week: I need to stop being a passive participant in my quiet times with God. How often do I read my Bible and think, “Wow, that was nice”, write about it in my journal, pray about it, and then not do anything further than that?
This Perspectives lesson reminded me that it’s not just the job of missionaries or seminary students to learn scripture. As Christians, we should be unable to function outside of the word and will of God. We should constantly be looking at scripture for guidance, and then committing that to our memory so that we can bless others with the words of God when they need it.
As Christians, we need to learn the teachings of our teacher and be able to talk about Jesus as if He really is our best friend, lover, and everything, like we say that He is.
I never want to be at the point again where I can’t think of more than five of Jesus’ parables, or where I doubt that I could talk for more than an hour about the things that I have seen God do in my life and the lives of those around me.
Never again do I want to doubt that I really “know” Jesus the way that I say I do.
(Also, Carl Medearis tells the above story much more eloquently in his book Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships. Check it out. It’s pretty rad.)