The big blue book on my desk is called Christian Theology by Millard Erickson. It contains 1312 pages of insight to our Christian faith. I had the chance to meet Erickson once at a banquet. Somehow I was assigned to sit beside him. I was still in seminary . . . and, needless to say, I felt somewhat intimidated. I hoped: (a) I wouldn’t try to talk and swallow at the same time thus triggering a “Heimlich” moment, or (b) if I did have to talk I wouldn’t say something stupid and theologically unorthodox, and (c) I would have the courage to at least engage in some sort of coherent dialogue. How often do you meet the guy who wrote such a well-respected book on theology?
I remember very little of the meal except: (a) I didn’t choke, (b) he didn’t give me a stern lecture on the weakness of my theology, and (c) he was a super-friendly guy! Of everything that transpired that night, the only thing I remember is how engaging he was to this seminary student. I doubt he remembers that banquet and most certainly doesn’t remember me. But I remember him!
Reflecting on my educational career, I remember very little of the specifics of who taught what. That isn’t the teacher’s fault - they were building cumulatively, and it all begins to jell together. But I do remember the passion Mrs. Cooper had for plants and her home nation of Austria, Mr. Jackson’s critical thinking about science, and Miss Marshall’s humour. I have fond memories of the people but not their lessons.
This is true in general: we tend to remember the impact people had on us relationally more than what they may have taught or said. I love this line from the book of Acts, commenting on the disciples after Jesus had ascended back to heaven:
“They took note that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
THAT is the ultimate affirmation - not of the disciples tremendous leap toward maturity, sudden development of public speaking skills, or ability to do miracles. It was about the change done by the work of the Holy Spirit in them. It was so radical, their message so clear, there was no alternative but to acknowledge that God had done something great.
This commentary wasn’t just about an individual; it was about the whole group. The unity, shared passion and boldness, and mutual care for one another was unprecedented. This new community dynamic had never been seen. And I hope people can see that in us, too. As we follow Jesus - individually and as a group - the transformation should cause the odd bit of head-scratching amongst our observers. And then we can explain to them, “We have been transformed by Jesus!”