This has been an interesting summer. It started with a 5,200-mile family vacation through the wild west (from the Badlands of South Dakota to glacier National Park in Montana) to an attempted theft of our car in Atlanta to my 30th high school reunion in New Jersey.
I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. But it was my reunion that actually made the most vivid impression and has stuck with me the longest.
First of all, if you’ve ever been to a high school reunion you know that you can’t recognize about half of your former classmates. On an even sadder note, you also learn how many that you graduated with no longer pay taxes because they are no longer breathing. In my case, out of a class of about 300, at least a dozen have died and those are just the ones we know about.
You need to know that my high school class was roughly 30 percent Jewish. To say it was a secular group in a secular part of the country is no overstatement. New Jersey isn’t exactly the Bible belt.
Nevertheless, many of my classmates knew that I was a Christian. I didn’t shove that down their throat but I didn’t hide it either. In my graduation speech as student council president I mentioned the name of the Lord and I can still vividly recall the audible rumble that went through the audience (you just didn’t publicly mention the “G-word” even in those days).
So you can imagine my surprise when one girl (now a middle-aged woman) came up and said, “You know, we were all children of the ‘60s. We were pretty clueless about life, but you seemed to know where you were going and what life was all about. You added some stability to our class. Thanks!”
I wanted to ask, “Are you sure you’ve got the right guy?” You could have knocked me over with a feather. Even though I did attempt to follow Christ and be faithful to Him through my high school years, I was still a teen-ager with a ton of growing up to do (still working on that “growing up” stuff as a matter of fact). I was no paragon of perfection, but my fellow students apparently saw that there was a difference for which I can only give God the praise that they saw anything that was attractive.
I found it amazing that my classmates just assumed that I would still believe what I told them I believed many years ago (and I do).
They just assumed that I would be a pastor (which I am). And at least one Jewish classmate just assumed, after all these years, that I would be delighted that he had come to know Christ as his Messiah (and I most certainly am). The lesson for me was simply that we have no idea the impact (for good or ill) that we are making on those around us each day. St. Francis is purported to have said, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” Obviously words are necessary since “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” but his point is profoundly clear. I honestly didn’t realize just how true that is until a few weeks ago. The class of ‘70 reminded me in a fresh way that no man lives unto himself. Who we are and what we do impacts the world around us. And, as a Christian, I have the incredible privilege of impacting people, not just for this life but also for eternity, and so do you if you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior.
If so, may God help us to consistently live for Christ since we really are the only Bible some people will ever read. If you don’t have a personal relationship with the Father through the Son, then I encourage you to take a hard look at the ladder you’re now climbing. It could well be leaning against a crumbling wall.
Rev. Gary Cox is minister of Meadowview Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, NC.