by Harry Banks
"… I want to be like that!"
I was startled by the comment. I'm not sure why, but I don't expect to hear lofty personal aspirations being expressed in the shark tank (our in house nickname for our Sabbath School Class). But here was this lady whom I had never met before, announcing candidly that there was something in the lesson she had a strong desire to emulate.
Did she really know what she was saying? What if we had a whole church full of people that said "I want to be like that"?
So what was she saying she wanted to be like?
We were traveling through the second missionary journey of Paul. Last week after his vision of the macedonian man, Paul had crossed from Troy, across the Aegean sea to Neaoplis, and on to Philippi, where casting out a demon landed Paul and Silas in jail. And their midnight singing was accompanied by an earthquake and the conversion of the jailer. Ultimately the city officers of Philippi asked Paul to leave. After meeting briefly with his new friends Paul moved on. You can read all about it in Acts 16 and 17.
Next we picked up the story in Thessalonica, called Thessaloniki today. Not only is the city currently the second largest city in Greece, after Athens, but in Paul's day it was a city of major prominence. We noted that Paul was doing major city evangelism in his following of the vision. But jealousy prompted a riot and upon failure to find Paul, the crowd dragged Jason before magistrates and accused him of befriending these men who have turned the world upside down. So after a brief 3 weeks Paul moved on once more.
On to Berea, then Athens. We spent time looking at some pictures of the Acropolis, not far from Mars Hill, the Areopagus, where Paul was invited to speak. We tried to picture walking the streets of Athens. Seeing the temples. Taking in the arrogance of learned men. The stimulation of ideas. Finding the temple to the "unknown god". Tried to taste Paul's passion to build bridges of understanding to these citizens in this capital of lofty thought. We read his speech. You can find it in Acts 17 if you want to read along. The introduction of the God of all creation. Who did not need idols. Noticed his tactfulness in his mention of "In the past God overlooked such ignorance." And then came the resurrection. The assembly broke up … But … Some believed!
We also were tracing the travels of Timothy, with Paul and Silas, from Thessalonica, on to Berea, then Athens. And then based on 1 Thess 3:1, 2 we watched Timothy retrace the 370 miles from Athens back to Thessolnica just to check on these new believers just because of Paul's deep concern for their personal and spiritual well being. It was at that thought that our visitor announced, "I was just telling my husband on the way out here, I want to be like that!" I want to care so much for people I will go out of my way to keep in touch, to let them know I care about them. Even if I have only met them briefly. I want to be like Paul.
Ohmigosh. Did she know what she was saying? Did she really mean that? Wow, what if a bunch of us started to be that way?
So for the past few days I keep trying to picture what it would have been like to be in Paul's skin. To share his passion. To have that journey from adversary to apostle laser etched on ones soul and in one's eyes. To have met the redeemer of the whole world in a blinding flash, and linger in the after image of that flash for three years before venturing start the ministry of salvation to all the world. When I try to take it in… I'm filled with awe and admiration… But…, would I ever dare to say "I want to be like that." It kind of takes my breath away.
It's strange, just having someone in my presence say "…I want to be like that" out loud… Seems to give me the courage to hope I could be come more like that… I think for Paul it must have something to do with the experiencing being changed from murderer to missionary by the personal intervention of Jesus, the creator God, and Redeemer of all humankind.
So I find myself asking?
How is redemption played out in my life?
What vision do I see?
So, I'm wondering… What do I really want to be like?
And maybe … if you don't mind … would I dare ask …
What do you want to be like?
What vision do you see?