I was driving down route I-93 in Boston this past December and passed a large billboard for the Boston Rescue Mission. It says, “Transforming lives at risk since 1899.” Then, below that, there is a picture of a real man with the words, “I am living proof.” I thought to myself, that’s convincing. It got me onto the web later on, looking up what Boston Rescue Mission is all about.
The Christmas break from the seminary I spent visiting a lot of people, and I got the chance to visit with a lot of old friends that I hadn’t had the chance to catch up with for a while. One evening at my friend Jim’s, we were catching up with some other friends, telling some old stories, and laughing. He said, “Jerome, I remember when you got out of grad school, you had everything on a schedule, always getting something done. I was late meeting up with you one time, and you were all upset, ‘You’re wasting my time!'” I know, I used to be like that, I said. Well after admiring my friends for being my friends, later on after the kids went to bed I showed Jim and his wife some of the videos of what was happening in Ecuador, what God had done for me, on his huge-screen TV that gets Youtube. Giant images of green countryside, a loving presence to people in the forgotten places of the world, beautiful Spanish music, he said, this is pretty amazing that you’re doing this. It didn’t hit me until much later, this is the 180 degree opposite of how Jim knew me before.
I was God’s living proof.
One of the last places I visited over the break was a lawyer’s office, a man who I knew from high school, one of my brother’s friends. We talked on the phone and he needed to meet up about some paperwork for my father’s estate settlement. I said, “I will come to you.” So I drove over to his office and we began to talk, about the Church. Well he must have liked what I said, because he said at the end, “When are you going to get ordained?” But after we had talked, he took out the paperwork, gave me a rundown, and then slid a piece of paper over to me, and asked me to sign on the ‘x’ – to claim my share of my father’s inheritance.
Why was St. Paul so convincing? Why did so many people get the hope to turn toward the Lord because of him? Well, he was a type-A, demanding, get-things-done, type of guy with a closed-up heart, who became a man with a huge loving heart and something exciting to share. He went from being a bossy control freak to being a son of God.
He was living proof.
What can make a Christian convincing? What makes people want to find out about God? What convinces people that God has a rescue mission to bring us out of the miseries of life, that He really loves us and cares about us? It isn’t philosophy or theology, or right morals, or good politics, or big programs or inspiring thoughts, or good works toward the disadvantaged.
It is by revealing what God has done for us.
By being living proof.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)