In the early years of our marriage, Teresa and I moved around quite a bit. When I recall the places we lived by name, many associations flash through my mind. In Atlanta: the high-speed traffic, the great boss, the tennis and swim accommodations inside most every neighborhood and the tornado that went over our house. In New Orleans: the great food, the deep culture, the McDonald’s menu in French, the drive-through daiquiri shops, the crawfish boils and the warm muggy evenings sitting in the driveway with neighbors. Maryland, Minnesota, Texas…each place we lived has its own inventory in my memory banks.
Interestingly, one place we lived takes up very little space in my memory banks. Waco, Texas was our first relocation when I started with Pillsbury. I do not remember much about it. I remember that Dr. Pepper was invented there by a pharmacist. Honestly, I have more memories connected with Waco because of its newsworthiness and notoriety after we left. I recall little else about that stopping point in our early years except…this one specific conversation that occurred on the historic Waco Suspension Bridge spanning the Brazos River.
As I recall, we had some good friends in town from Arlington, Texas. I had worked with the husband of this couple in a late-hours package sorting facility while attending college and we’d become friends. At some point, he invited Teresa and I and our kids (2 at that time) to his house for dinner. Our families spent the evening together and that officially migrated our relationship from acquaintance to friendship. They had a couple of boys, as did we, so that commonality only helped deepen our friendship over the years.
My friend, his wife and kids had driven down to Waco for a quick weekend visit. This one particular night, we were out strolling after dinner. It was dark and the aforementioned bridge was decoratively lit. For some reason our conversation gravitated that night towards what we believe but with an interesting twist. My friend and I did not talk about our beliefs much at all. In limited previous discussions, he had officially tethered his horse to the agnostic hitching post (even bordering atheism.) Personally, I think he was more likely just not interested, did not want to be inconvenienced, or had little desire to spend any mental or relational energy on the subject at all. On this night though, unexpectedly, he said, “You know, even though I believe the way I do, I am not going to force my beliefs on my kids. I am going to let them decide for themselves.” I was not deep enough in my own understanding to offer any serious apologetics or profound rebuttal other than blurting out the first thing that came to my mind, “You have already decided for them, then!” He looked at me with a combination of shock and confusion but with enough hint of curiosity to allow space for me to continue. I went on to slowly unpack what I was thinking.
You see, in a primitive way, I somehow knew that being around other Christ followers was influential in my understanding and formation. Even if I could not articulate it well, it was deeper than a cultural thing. Somehow I felt that not allowing his kids to be exposed in a relational way to the person of Jesus through committed relationship with other believers might make it super hard for them to really understand at a deep level. They could read a book and gain some understanding but it was not the same as being the benefactor of generational living as a follower of Jesus.
They could read a book and gain some understanding but it was not the same as being the benefactor of generational living as a follower of Jesus.
He and I lost touch so I cannot tell you where he is today or what he believes. I can tell you that he and his family started attending church and I believe their faith and church community carried them through a child fighting cancer and some rough patches in his marriage. I know the nature of our conversations changed and he began having an open and refreshed perspective based on how he and his family were loved through some tough stuff.
Our passage this week from 1 John 2 talks about what it looks like to be for Christ. From The Message: It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness. And later in the chapter: This is what makes an antichrist: denying the Father, denying the Son. No one who denies the Son has any part with the Father, but affirming the Son is an embrace of the Father as well.
While this reference may be more about the people who were denying the divinity of Christ, this story from my own life makes me realize that we can be “against Christ” in many ways: overtly like my friend, but maybe more subtly when we do things that “block the light from others.” Truthfully, God loves my friend as much as he loves us all. I do not think John in any way is saying to avoid those people or isolate yourselves from them. He is encouraging us to stay fixed on Jesus as the divine, walking, living example of the love of God. As The Message goes on to say: But they’re no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ’s anointing, no less! You don’t need any of their so-called teaching. Christ’s anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught. And now, children, stay with Christ. Live deeply in Christ.
Alex is a grandfather, avid cycler, fisherman, an alder at Grace and loves playing his guitar while singing slightly off key with all his friends on Sunday morning (aka worship). But all of that is a huge disguise for his real identity as a disciple of Jesus.