Encountering the rich and famous can be enlightening. Some turn out to be exactly as imagined, while others are downright different.
George Washington falls into the second category. Meeting him in the flesh surprised me — he was far from what I had been led to believe. Historical accounts portray an elderly, Caucasian gentleman with tight greying ringlets; adorned in a splendid uniform, he is often pictured astride a spirited steed.
However, the George Washington who sat behind me during recent classes in India was youthful, dark-skinned and more apt to be mounted on a Honda motorcycle.
George revealed that his parents thought it honourable to name their son after a noteworthy individual. Washington shared the following story, illustrating this common practice:
A few months ago, he and two other young adults were participating in a local church service and were invited to sit on the platform with the pastor. According to Indian custom, visiting participants were introduced by the church leader who said, “We are pleased to have with us today, George Washington, Lenin and Neil Armstrong.”
Everyone laughed but the pastor, who, the team later discovered, was named Abraham Lincoln.
Though the Washington I encountered face-to-face was a far cry from the original, it still gave me cause to ponder the fact that I also am linked to a famous Name.
I am proud to be a Christian.
The title was first attached to believers dwelling in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). It identified them with the recently crucified and resurrected Jesus whom they believed to be the Christ, or Messiah. Thus, the term “Christian” or “Christ-follower.”
The name stuck and was passed through the centuries, arriving on my personal doorstep back in the late ‘70s when, by faith, I chose to believe that the Saviour Jesus had died for my sins. In so doing, I joined a 2,000-year-old movement that, though anchored in antiquity is yet flavoured with the gloriously sweet message of hope.
If the present world population could be corporately quizzed, “Who’s your Saviour” the thundered response would echo from pole to pole as 2.1 billion voices declared, “Jesus.”
Yes, the sheer number of us is astounding, representing 36.5% of the world population.
Like my friend George, I’m pleased to be associated with my famous namesake. Oh, I know that some have abused the term over the years, wielding it for personal gain or manipulative ends.
But I will not relegate the Name to the refuse pile, just because a few have worn it carelessly. Such buffoonery must be counteracted by sincere boldness.
I’ll shout it from the mountaintops: “I AM A CHRISTIAN.” I’m pleased to emulate the compassion, fervency and love of my Saviour.
Now I know that pride is to be resisted, but I’ll let you in on a secret — I feel a deep-down, unmistakeable surge of such, each time someone asks, “Are you a Christian?”
My head lifts a little higher, eyes sparkle, shoulders straighten, chest tightens and I declare, “Yep, guilty; and, by the way so is my good friend George Washington.”
Rod Barks is a Saskatchewan pastor of Nipawin Apostolic Church. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org