Greetings Brothers and Sisters,
Not long ago, I was emailed a short devotion. It spoke of an ancient Christian teacher named Pamphilus who was on trial for his life in 4th century Rome (when Christianity was illegal).
As he dealt with the judge, Pamphilus let it slip that his home was “Jerusalem.” The Jerusalem to which Pamphilus referred was the New Jerusalem that John and all believers in Christ look forward to seeing someday.
Now it’s important to remember that the earthly city of Jerusalem had actually been destroyed in 70 A.D.…several hundred years before. But the Roman judge (who had no knowledge whatsoever of a city by the name Jerusalem) nearly drove himself crazy trying to figure out where this new, rebellious Christian settlement was located.
The main purpose of this devotion was to remind us to be clear in our speech, especially when dealing with those people who are outside the faith. The lesson was that the witness of Pamphilus was ineffective, because he was using words that didn’t communicate anything to his listeners… listeners who didn’t have a background in the language of the faith. And the point intended by the devotion’s author is well-taken. We do need to be sensitive to the training (or lack thereof) of those people who are first hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ (especially in a day and age when more and more people are growing up without any knowledge of the Bible—at all). But I have a different point to make with this story.
How often do we Christians, ourselves, get lost in our own language. Whether it’s speech about forgiveness from sins… or talk of “righteousness”… or even chatting about “God’s plan” and “Heaven…” are we really sure what we mean? When I read this story about Pamphilus and the Roman judge, my first impulse was to laugh. I thought, That silly judge... walking around thinking that New Jerusalem is a real city.
Then the absurdity of that thought hit me like a two-by-four between the eyes. Oh, man! It actually IS a real city! Maybe Pamphilus’ mistake wasn’t leading the judge on a wild goose chase looking for a real city; maybe his mistake was in failing to present just how real a city it is!
Everybody knows Christians as Bible readers (and perhaps as Bible-thumpers). Even some people who disagree with us still call us People of the Book. But the Season of Lent (coming this month!) reminds us that we are not people of just any old book. We’re talking about the Word of God! Bible stories are not just stories. They are the story… of God’s activity in human history!
And as we continue with our own walk to the cross this Lenten Season, we are called to remember just who it is that walks with us. We called to remember just who it is that really (that is, in real life) took that walk first… Who really lived and breathed and died and rose… Who really saved us… And Who really is coming back for us… Amen.
Pastor Jeremy May