Eleven years ago I had just graduated from Princeton Theological
Seminary and the Senior Minister I was serving with encouraged
me to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. A
radical group of New Testament scholars, operating under the
title The Jesus Seminar, had come to town for one of their
annual meetings. Their task, as a group of professionals, was to
decide which teachings of Jesus actually came from his mouth,
and which were made up by the early church. Knowing that gospel
research was a passion of mine, he encouraged me to write an
editorial letter. The response was beyond anything I expected.
Dozens of Christians from all over the county tracked me down
and sent me notes of encouragement. I was swamped by phone
calls. But I also got some hate mail, including a quasi-death
threat letter which had been opened and re-sealed by the FBI
with a cover letter stating "the sender is under federal
investigation" and not to be afraid. Wonderful. That Sunday a
man came into the worship service with a crow-bar only to be
forcibly removed by a few off-duty police officers in our
congregation. I'm sure little kids watching this thought,
"Church rocks man!"
An Uncertain Man
John chapter three records an incident where a religious teacher
named Nicodemus came to Jesus to inquire about spiritual
matters. What Nicodemus encountered, or more accurately who
Nicodemus encountered, was far from the tolerant, accepting,
affirming religious teacher of The Jesus Seminar. Nicodemus told
Jesus in verse 2, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come
from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are
doing if God were not with him." Avoiding any formalities and
cutting straight to the heart of the matter, Jesus responded, "I
tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see
the kingdom of God." No ambiguity. No pretense. No uncertainty.
No haziness. Jesus went straight to the core of Nicodemus'
search with an honest, up-front and unapologetic answer. My how
times have changed.
Christians today seem so apologetic about their beliefs. The
problem is people today are looking for help from people who
know that they know that they know. Christians have become so
tolerant today of everything; inquirers are looking for people
with convictions. In the last three months two of my daughters
broke their arms. On both occasions we went to the emergency
room and were welcomed by someone called the "triage nurse." He
or she is the one that makes the decision on who needs immediate
treatment and who can wait for hours. Each time we were struck
by the conviction of our triage nurse. She didn't hesitate. Yes.
No. Sit. Come in. Wait. Rush. Stop. Not a hint of ambiguity in
her voice. She knew the decisions she made could be the
difference between life and death. Christians today could
benefit from spending a little time in the ER. I know I did.