on sunday dr. james and i had the opportunity to help another local church prepare their new meeting space for sunday worship. one of the guys we were working with was a kind, middle-aged missionary who served with campus crusade international for many years and is a highly skilled audio/visual tech.
side note: if you have a construction project that includes skill of any kind, i would not encourage you to include me in your team. i can't read a tape measure, am easily confounded by a crow bar and cannot be trusted with power tools.
anyway, after we had torn down a few dividing walls, shattered a little safety glass and thrown a couple of aged metal shelves down two flights of concrete stairs, james and i joined the middle-aged pastor and two other church leaders for lunch. just as we were unwrapping our double-quarter pounders and attempting to determine the real content of our chicken nuggets, james mentioned that he and brooke were going to see U2 later that night. one of the guys in the group responded with an affirming noise and another mentioned that he had wanted to see them live for twenty years.
but that's not what the middle aged missionary said. that's not how he responded at all. instead he altered our conversation with a perplexing interrogative: "do you think bono is saved?"
my immediate response was "how should i know? thankfully God hasn't left such determinations up to me." james responded by mentioning the beautiful way that bono advocates for the poor and invests a good deal of his own money in AIDS initiatives and other programs in africa.
the man ignored my response and responded to james by saying, "but there are a lot of unsaved people who do fantastic work for the poor." at that point the conversation ground into a glottal stop and i, for one, was glad to move on because any further response i offered would have been less than gracious.
in the hours and days that have followed that conversation, i have spent an inordinate amount of time pondering the middle-aged missionary's interrogative. although i once would have used such questions as a relational diagnostic, i now shudder to hear them tumble from people's lips. here are a few of the subconscious questions i (may) have heard lurking in and around the man's question.
"is bono one of us or is he an outsider?"
"sure bono's work is commendable, but is his theology acceptable?"
"how can we be sure that bono safe?"
"if bono is a christian, why doesn't he proclaim the gospel?"
"in the midst of his compassion, does bono risk telling people the truth?"
"we always need to doubt celebrities who claim to be christians...except mel gibson. he's the one who will be seated on God's left hand in heaven."
okay, so maybe the latter part of the last question never fired through the middle-aged missionary's synapses. hell, maybe none of them did. however, when someone asks a question like that, these are some of the assumptions that seem underlie their question.
i'm curious. how would you have responded to the man's question? feel free to provide a thoughtful and respectful (let's not slip into our own subtle form of condemnation here - the man is worthy of our respect) response by commenting below.
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jack cash: "how you gonna help people if you can't tell 'em the right story?"
record exec: "your fans are gospel folk, johnny. they're christians, and they don't wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin' to cheer 'em up." cash: "then they ain't christians."
"people can really be healed. they are even some of 'em you can trust.but first you gotta take a risk, and tell 'em where it hurts." ~uncle bill, i'll never be normal (after this)
"don't lose me now don't lose me now though i know i'm not useful anyhow... just let me stick around." ~okkervil river, black
albus dumbledore: "dark and difficult times lie ahead, harry. now is the time that we must choose between what is right, and what is easy."
i am a thirtysomething worker bee who hails from massachusetts. by day i find jobs for individuals with significant disabilities and by night i spend time with my pixie-like wife and share life with my friends at the gathering in salem. my deepest passions are following Jesus Christ, extending God's compassion to the poor and obsessing about the Saint Louis Cardinals.