Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I attended two funerals in 2010.

The first was of my grandfather, Bob Martin. To his students, he was known as Bob, because, taking Matthew 23:8 to heart, he rejected any title to set himself apart. To me, he was known as Papaw. He didn't think that a Christian should ever be merely "okay," so whenever anyone asked, "How are you?", he replied, "I'm rejoicing in the Lord!" He preached in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and Tennessee, and taught Bible and theology at Johnson Bible College for 28 years, touching the lives and shaping the faith of thousands of students. When he died, someone set up a memorial page on Facebook for him; there were 17 pages of comments from people expressing the impact he'd had on their lives. He was the finest Christian man I know. He was 82, half a century older than me.

The second was of Cheryl Beckett, the daughter of an area minister. She was one of ten medical-aid workers who were killed in Afghanistan, where they were living, serving, and loving the Afghan people. I did not know her, but at the funeral, I heard how she lived a life of service and sacrifice even before her death: passing up a prestigious education and job opportunity because it wasn't where God was leading her; travelling to Honduras, Mexico, Kenya, and Zimbabwe doing service work; and giving up numerous rights, freedoms, and comforts to service in Afghanistan. Her father, in a sermon, mentioned how humbling it was to realize how much he had to learn from her. She was 32, barely older than me.

It's popular to ask, “What would Jesus do?” However, there are two problems with the question. The first is one of fact; as Dallas Willard explains in The Spirit of the Disciplines, asking what Jesus would do at the point of decision-making fails to recognize the kind of life that Jesus led that gave him the strength and discipline to make those kind of decisions. It's like asking, “What would my sports hero do?” on the field or court without attempting the training that enables that kind of performance. But Willard develops this idea much better than I could, so I won't go into it further now.

The second problem is psychological. Even while asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?,” it's easy to subconsciously discount the answer. After all, Jesus had a bit of an advantage over us, right? Can we seriously expect our own actions to match up to the standard of the perfect God-man? So it becomes easy to relegate ”what Jesus would do” to an abstract standard or unattainable ideal. As long as we're at least growing, as long as we're heading in the right direction, that's the best we can reasonably hope for, right?

Looking at the lives of Papaw and Cheryl Beckett makes me realize that taking this view would be wrong. While it's true that, in this life, growth is the best we can hope for, there's a huge difference between the kind of growth that Papaw and Cheryl showed and the kind of growth that we too often settle for. Attaining to the perfect standard of what Jesus would do is, in this life, impossible, but Papaw and Cheryl show me how far it's possible to go. True, Papaw had fifty years more than I've had to grow and mature, but if my life continues on its present trajectory, will I reflect Christ to the degree that he did? Cheryl was my age; does my life now reflect Christ to the degree that hers does?

What changes do I need to make for my growth in Christ to be more like theirs

What changes do you need to make to grow more in Christ?

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