In the summer of 2000, I found myself in paradise. Some people are beach people. Paradise for them is under an umbrella watching the tide roll in. Other people are mountain people . . . loving life most at elevations over 5,000 feet. I am more of a mountain man myself, so when I had the chance to go to Banff National Park in Canada in June 2000, I jumped at the chance.
A man in our church gave my wife and I some frequent flyer tickets for a graduation present from seminary, and Kimberly’s sister was stationed in Calgary for the summer by her employer – so we had free transportation and a free place to stay about an hour’s drive from Canada’s most beautiful National Park.
After a few days exploring the high country, we ended up back in Calgary and at dinner with Kimberly’s sister and her (then boyfriend, now husband). At this point, I had been in Canada for nearly a week and I had begun to think that I “fit in” north of the border. I had learned the lingo, wore similar clothes to the locals, and adored their mountains. Though Canada is a different country, there are many similarities in appearance to my home back in the states. However, any thought that I could pass as a Canadian evaporated as the waitress took our drink orders.
The orders started with my brother-in-law then moved around to my sister-in-law, then wife. They all ordered without issue. However, when I ordered my drink, the waitress stopped in her tracks and said, “Where are YOU from?”
Honestly, I do not think I have an accent. I sound “normal” to me. However, as time has gone on, I realize that my southern drawl tethers me to my Oklahoma home. All 4 of us around the table that night were from the same hometown, yet it was my voice that blew our cover.
We live in a world where most of the time Christians “fit in.” As American Christians we know the lingo, wear fashionable clothing, and enjoy much of the same local entertainment as our non-Christian friends. Sure, we have unique beliefs and a different moral compass, but generally we look the part of American locals.
However, our home is not here. Our citizenship is in heaven. Eventually, the world will find this out, and one of the ways the world finds out who we really are is when we open our mouths and speak. When Christians talk, our “spiritual accent” should come through, showing our connection to our Savior.
We clearly see this from the Apostle Paul. In Romans 1:1-7, Paul begins a letter to the church in Rome. In this introductory paragraph Paul introduces himself. When he does, his connection to Jesus is clearly heard. Paul here describes himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” (1:1). Bible Scholar W.H. Griffith Thomas described Paul’s connection to Christ this way, “He regarded himself as the purchased possession of his Lord and Master. The two ideas of property and service are suggested. There was no serfdom or servility, and yet there was an absolute loyalty in the consciousness of absolute possession. The bond-servant owned nothing, and was nothing apart from his master. His time, his strength, everything belonged altogether to another. There was nothing nobler to St. Paul than to be a slave of the Lord Jesus. He desired to be nothing, to do nothing, to own nothing apart from Him.”
Paul saw his entire life and purpose tied up in Jesus Christ. He could not talk without pointing people back to Him. When Paul spoke, I believe people said things like, “where is this guy from?” not because of his Jewish complexion or Greek dialect. I think they said that because His self-descriptions pointed people to His Lord and Savior.
How about you? When you describe who you are and what is important to you, do you reference the person of Jesus Christ and His redeeming work in your life? For Paul, this was the most important thing about himself, so he led with that identity. Paul did not lead off with his human education (which was excellent) or his earthly accomplishments (which were also stout.) He led off with His Savior, showing not where he was from but where He was going. Does your speech reveal a similar story?
I am challenged by this. As someone who is a “vocational Christian,” people quickly ascertain that I am a part of the Christian religion. However, I am not a follower of Christ because I get paid by a church or went through graduate school at a seminary. The most important thing about me is not my vocation or my schooling. The most important thing about me is what Jesus has done for me, and what He wants to offer you. When I speak, I want people to know where I am going (following Christ) more than where I am from. After all, it is not important that we all sound like we are from Northeast Oklahoma, but I pray God uses me (and my words) to help many follow Christ.
Join us this Sunday, August 16, 2015 as we kick off our “Good News” sermon series in our 9:30 and 10:50 worship services at Wildwood Community Church. This Sunday’s message will focus on Romans 1:1-7.
To access the entire “Good News” study, click here.