Friday, February 19, 2010

My Missionary Journey to Valley Forge Beef and Ale

They say that when you become a missionary what the Lord does in you is more important than what he does through you. I found that was true of our time overseas doing Bible translation, and I was reminded of it again some time ago when I took a friend from church to Valley Forge Beef and Ale for a meetup with some friends from the Libertarian Party.

Mr. X and I have gone back and forth for quite some time over our church’s stand in support of what I consider imperialism abroad and tyranny at home, so I invited him to go along to see if my LP friends could talk some sense into him. I half expected him to demur, but the shock when he accepted was overshadowed by the one that followed, when I realized that if there were two of us Christians in the same room with a couple of dozen nonbelievers, the most important line was between us Christians and them: my first duty was to work with Mr. X to make the gospel attractive to the lost, not to gang up with them against Mr. X. Ma-a-an, what’s the fun in that?

So that was my first lesson: God’s kingdom is eternal; Uncle Sam is but a temporary annoyance and indeed even at his worst a tool in the hands of the God who is calling his people to himself. The Great Commission doesn’t get put on the shelf just because the pagan Recabites are right in major issues and the children of the covenant have gone astray.

As I have mentioned earlier, Libertarians are generally a scruffy lot. You wouldn’t confuse even the most genteel with the country club crowd. And this group was no exception. Though there were a couple of guys I knew there, they were busy, so apart from a couple of candidate wannabes who were hoping to recruit us to help them run for office, Mr. X and I were pretty much left to ourselves.

The first agendum was a very interesting talk by Ernest Hancock, who invented the Ron Paul Revolution sign with “LOVE” stamped over it backwards, someone who really knows how to put his words into action. His description of how he gets people involved convicted me because I spend so much time chasing the buck (pretty unsuccessfully, I might add) that I don’t have time to do much of real substance. (Maybe if I spent less time blogging?) Another lesson.

Mr. X has spent time in the past hanging with folks from the John Birch Society, a group named after a Christian missionary martyred in China. The proportion of members who are Christians of various stripes is pretty high, so he’s used to a well-mannered crowd. He seemed to like Ernie, and I think he noticed that a couple of Ernie’s sentences could have come out of books written by theologians we both like, but overall I think his primary impression was that Ernie was a potty mouth.

Since nobody took enough interest in Mr. X to ask him where he was coming from, they didn’t realize that he wasn’t one of us, and so they didn’t know that they would be hurting their case by, shall we say, in-crowd talk. I mention this here because I think the church is making the same mistake. My scruffy friends would wonder what we stand for if they visited our church and heard our prayers for the well-being of US military people with no mention of those they have maimed and made homeless and with cursory mention of our missionaries, many of whom work in countries whose governments would love to deport them. And I infer from occasionally thumbing through World magazine that our church is far from unique.

The main event was a video documentary about the Ron Paul Revolution. I had planned to leave before it started, but Mr. X wanted to see it, so we stayed. God struck again.

In contrast to the scruffiness we were sitting among—and by the way, I’m as scruffy as the next guy, which is why I hang with that crowd as much as I can—Dr. Paul exudes character and class. He always appears in public looking neat, and I’ve never heard him use offensive language, not even in reference to those who mistreat him. He is an unabashed Christian, older than most Baby Boomers, who has inspired an amazing number of young nonbelievers to get out his message. While that message is not the gospel, it is one that is certainly more compatible with Christian ethics than that of his opponents and one that, if practiced, would allow the gospel to (continue to) go out unhindered. We scruffs have been at it for years and gotten nowhere. Dr. Paul has been classy-not conspicuously rich, but simple and humble-for years and has inspired a revolution. What a difference!

I don’t know what Mr. X really took home from the meeting, but I certainly felt like God talked to me. To the scruffy I can be scruffy, I guess, but to the classy, like Mr. X, I need to learn how to put on class. I don’t know if this leopard can change his spots, but as much fun as it is hanging with like-minded folk, it’s those who appreciate and aspire to class who really seem to get things done.

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