Monday, October 31, 2005

"Pray for me, John"

That's what he said. Just, "Pray for me, John."

He's a man I've known for a long time. I've learned from him. I've laughed with him. I've respected him, and I've made fun of him. I've sat with people when his name comes up in conversation, and we've collectively rolled our eyes. We've heard stories about him and said, "That's just like him." We've told stories about him that included the phrase, "You know how he is."

Today he asked me to pray for him. He said, "I've been wrong. I've written things that were just plain wrong. You suffered some of that abuse, didn't you?"

I sat silent.

"I'm sorry. I'm rambling. This morning I got on my knees and told God I was sorry. I've gotten so caught up in being right. Does that make sense?"

I know the feeling.

We talked for a few minutes more. We talked about how easy it is to miss the "who" of Christianity and get caught up in the "what". We talked about how we fool ourselves into believing that we're fighting for truth, when we're really fighting to be the one who gets everything right -- to be heard -- to be respected. If we can't be liked or loved, at least we can be feared.

He was telling me this as if I was unfamiliar with the pattern. I know it all too well.

Christianity -- at its core -- is relational, not propositional. The diagnostic questions we must ask have less to do with how well we know our Bibles and more to do with how well we love the people around us. Are we more approachable or less? Are we becoming more like Jesus or more like the people Jesus criticized?

It's strange how humbling an experience like this can be. Rather than putting me in some kind of superior position, it brought me down to the place of being a servant. Praying for him will be like washing his feet.

"Pray for me, John. Will you do that?"

Of course I will.