Over the years I have often heard the phrase ‘Every church has one’, and in every single case it was not meant to refer to a piece of architecture within the building. Oh sure, you could say every church has a cross. Which would probably be true of most protestant churches. But that is not what the phrase was ever attached to. Rather when someone used the phrase ‘Every church has one‘ it was a reference to a person and was generally not used in a very flattering way. The phrase is meant to identify a stereotype, that may, or may not, be likable, and then to assert that stereotype is common enough as to be able to predict finding it in other churches other than your own.
And even though we should all be cautious about building stereotypes, the truth is that for all of our differences, we have a lot of commonalities, and we tend to act in similar ways and to mimic behaviors of others. And these behaviors and mannerisms we hold in common allow us to identify stereotypes. And being human, we then tend to ridicule and debase those stereotypes we find different than our own.
However, today I am going to tread on that dangerous ground, and sincerely pray that it is the example and the analogy that you find value in, and not the fact that the example is born out of what could be called a stereotype.
In our church there is a very nice older gentleman who is extremely outgoing and friendly. His name is Bob. And while I am hesitant to state that you must certainly have a Bob in your own church, I am fairly confident that you know the type of person I am referring to. That one person who always has to greet everyone. And everyone means every single person who comes through the door. Any door. Including doors they may not be standing at or watching.
And Bob will generally go on a mission prior to every Sunday service to make sure he has worked his way up and down the isles in order to greet everyone in the sanctuary. And Bob will generally ask a question or two as he greets you and welcomes you to the church. However, Bob is an elderly gentleman. And as such, his memory is probably not as sharp as a younger person. And I can certainly empathize with Bob. The last few years have found me in increasingly more situations struggling with trying to remember something that I am sure I should have right on the top of my head. In Bob’s case, there may be times when he just does not remember you or may not recall a previous conversation. Which will end up with repeats of Bob’s favorite questions. The top one of which is “Where are you folks from?”
Now granted, if you do know a Bob in your local church, they may not ask the same question all the time. However, here in Hawaii we see a lot of new faces all the time. The number of locals is really quite small. Whereas the number of tourists or transient families is quite high. Military family turnover is regular and constant. Such that the church is always seeing new families arrive and families that seemingly arrived yesterday depart. So, the one question that Bob asks repeatedly is “Where are you folks from?”
When someone asks you where you are from, they could have a very wide variety of driving motivations which are generally difficult to discern. They could be fascinated with those who have traveled from faraway places. They could be looking for a familiar link or common experience of a place they can relate to. Or they could even be trying to discover whether or not you are one of those people. That would be the people from places they find seedy or less than desirable. Whatever the motivations, I’ve always been fascinated with people who have to know where you are from. I’m usually thinking to myself “I’m from Earth. Why? Are you from a different planet?” However, I usually end up asking the person where they are from.
But there might be a better question to ask someone when they ask you where you are from. And that is: “Where is Jesus from?” I wonder how Bob might answer that question? I assume that most people would answer that Jesus was from Nazareth: “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:23 KJV.
But when someone asks you where you are from, don’t they really mean “Where were you born?” And for Jesus, that would be Bethlehem: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,” Matthew 2:1 KJV.
Sometimes they mean “Where did you grow up?” And certainly Jesus spent a few of His younger years in Egypt: “And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.” Matthew 2:13=15 KJV.
Or they might even mean “Where did you work?” And for Jesus, most of His career was based in Galilee: “Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.” Matthew 26:69 KJV.
But were any of these places really where Jesus was from? Was He from Bethlehem, Nazareth, Egypt, or Galilee? He was called as one from these places, but no, Jesus came down from Heaven where He had been for all of eternity with God the Father: “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;” John 13:3 KJV. Jesus came FROM God and He went TO God.
And this is the real danger in wanting to know where someone is FROM, it is much more important to know where they are AT. Do you know where Jesus Christ is AT today? Is He a part of your life? Is He your Lord and Savior? He wants to be.