Who Do Others Say You Are?
by Rev. David Melville
Pastors make certain their parishioners are familiar with the day Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) But I take the question further and include you and me in the equation. Who do others say you are? Are they accurate in their assessment? We can fool others, we can even fool ourselves, but we can’t fool God. God will know come Judgment Day.
I hope others see Christ in you. I hope you identify clearly with the Risen Christ. “Easter People” should be more than students, disciples, fans or even experts on Jesus. “Easter People” should stand out as identifying as closely with Christ as possible. Indeed, in our baptism we are said to go into the waters (die) and rise out of the waters (live) … with Christ. To be a Christian is to receive a new identity; in baptism we put on Christ.
We all wear many hats, and we can have more than one personality. (Just don’t have too many!) Most people have more than one talent, and more than one thing we’re good at. But in the end, one description about us should stand out above the others: did we deny self for Christ (Mark 8:34-35), and were we in the world, but not of the world? We are to be set apart; we are even to be, if necessary, peculiar.
Don’t we all know people who seem to be at one with Christ … or pretty darn close? There is just something about them; that “something” about them is explained as living Christ-like through the power of the Holy Spirit. To offer one example, Baton Rouge businessman Bill Peters, in my view, is identified with Christ. He was when I met him at the LSU Baptist Student Union nearly 50 years ago, and I saw the same identity when I re-connected with him after moving back to Baton Rouge in 2014. He is set apart.
Perhaps other national newspapers do likewise, but I do know that the New York Times presents selected obituaries in the form of what basically is a lengthy news article, with a headline summing up how the deceased was known to the world. A several-decades-old life is summed up in a headline. My obituary won’t make the New York Times, and whatever newspaper I wind up in will simply print what my family pays them to print. But every once in awhile I like to imagine what one-liner would be attached if I were eulogized in the good old New York Times! I invite you to do the same. Decide how you want to be identified and work every day to live according to that identity. At a minimum, be identified as very loving and as a person who was somehow in the world, but not of the world.
It is sad, frustrating and amazing to read an obituary of a Christian and never read a reference to church affiliation or the importance of Christ in the dearly departed’s life. It seems this is the case with increasing frequency. We learn about a man’s hobbies, favorite sports teams, that he was the life of the party, and that he loved his grandchildren very much. These identities are all fine if they are secondary to his love for and his identity with Jesus. But you have to wonder if church or spirituality is not even mentioned …
In the Broadway production of Les Miserables, the main character, Jean Valjean, is a convicted felon who turns his life around and becomes a Christ-like figure. But in one song, he asks, “Who am I?” and realizes that to some, he will always be identified as “#24601,” his prison number … even though he had become much, much more.
My nonprofit, Christ in the City, will present Aaron Beam at an ethics luncheon on Wednesday, May 2 at the De La Ronde Ballroom in downtown Baton Rouge. Aaron served prison time for corporate fraud, and in his efforts to help businesspeople attending his speeches, he always reminds them that, “Though I stopped my fraud and paid my debt to society, and am trying to do some good things now, I will always be a convicted felon.”
But Aaron Beam is much, much more.
For tickets, call (225) 397-6393.