The young man was a guest in our church this summer. He said the sanctuary was beautiful, and he was surprised when I said it’s ten years old. “It seems newer than that, “ he said, and then he asked me about the baptismal font: “Is that holy water?” It was the next question that somewhat surprised me: “Do you save people?” “I try,” I said, with a smile. But the question was very serious to him. I encouraged him to come to worship, to get a feel for what we’re about here.
He found me a few minutes later. “I wasn’t talking about coming to church week after week. I just want to be saved. I’m looking for a ‘one and out’.” I told him I’d be happy to meet with him, and he asked for my card.
I find myself thinking about him. I appreciate so much his sincerity; he told me that he’s “not a bad person” but a person who’s made some mistakes and wants a new beginning.
If we get the chance to talk, I’ll tell him that I have good news and bad news for him. The good news is, well, the good news: the essence of the gospel, that in Christ, we are given new chances over and over throughout our lifetimes…that we are unconditionally loved and forgiven even before we ask. The bad news? The life of faith is not a “one and out.”
One or two stellar moments don’t make you a good parent, or a good spouse, or a good friend or employee. We make our life not in a few grand gestures, but in the small acts of daily living, day after day, year after year.
Former President Jimmy Carter is widely known as one of our most successful ex-presidents. The life he has lived since leaving office has been exemplary. He has written books, worked for peace, and donated his time and talent to dozens of worthy causes, most notably Habitat for Humanity. The secret is not in a few magnificent speeches, but in a humble and faithful daily discipline: diet, exercise, writing, family time, study, prayer. He teaches Sunday School regularly at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, his home town. His life is rooted in scripture and the practices of the faith. Far from a drudgery, living his faith has made his life rich and full. It’s the kind of life I want. The kind of life most of us want. And the kind of life I wish for our young guest.