When I stepped out of my bedroom yesterday morning, my youngest son greeted me with a big smile. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was there, just standing in the hallway outside my bedroom door. That’s when I noticed the string in his hand. As soon as he saw me staring at him, he pulled on it, and a basket full of beanie babies came tumbling down all around me! “April Fools!” Was my son’s delighted comment.
A few minutes later, I came downstairs to work on my computer, but when I turned it on, the screen remained blank! I punched a few keys and jiggled the mouse, but to no avail. Thinking I had turned the screen off by mistake, I reached up to the on/off button . . . Only to have my fingertips greeted by . . . Tape! Someone had taped a black piece of paper over my computer screen! I looked up, and there was my youngest son again, with that same grin spreading from ear to ear. You can already guess what he said: “April Fools!”
Breakfast was next on the agenda. “It is going to be buffet style,” My youngest one advised me. And sure enough, it was elaborate enough that it required the skills (and cooperation!) Of both of my boys! The menu was far from ordinary. The first course was a plate full of blue pancakes. Next was a marble cake – made with REAL marbles! Watch out for your teeth! Then there were two plates of scrambled tofu eggs. The first looked quite ordinary, and the second was quite colorful. All of the colors of the rainbow were present, believe me! Naturally I took a serving of the first plate, only to find out that no seasonings had been added! Only the rainbow scrambled tofu eggs had any taste! Next there were normal-looking hash browns. I couldn’t help wondering why they were normal, but beside them on the table was a ketchup bottle that was filled with a little bit of ketchup mixed with a lot of red water! I seemed to prefer the real ketchup for some reason! Finally there were the drinks. Here I had three choices: Ordinary “orange” juice, “green” juice, and root beer. Quite naturally I filled my cup with what I thought was orange juice, only to find out it was orange-colored water! The Root Beer proved to be made of the same ingredients, and only the green juice was really juice!
However the breakfast was delicious! I guess I must have been hungry! Would you have liked to join us?
“We wanted to make this a special April Fools day for papa,” my sons informed me.
Well, they certainly did a good job! However, the evening was even more special. My youngest son took us all out to eat at Taco Bell (Yes, I am a Mexican food nut, although I was born in Europe!) Afterwards I was blindfolded (Not really. I just had to keep my eyes shut!) While my wife seemed to be driving in circles around Taco Bell’s parking lot. When I opened my eyes, all I could see were the grins painted across my boys’ faces: “We’re taking you to the movies!” They shouted. We were parked in front of the local cinema.
I will always remember this April Fools Day. My sons showed their love for me in a VERY special way. As a result, I felt wanted, appreciated and loved.
This was so different from the previous day! I had been at a regional meeting where delegates from several organizations were present. One of them desperately wanted to hire me! As she worked on persuading me to come and work for her organization, we were interrupted by the excited exclamation of someone who had overheard our conversation: “I’m interested! I’m interested.”
During lunch, this same nice lady approached me again with a formal job offer. As I was absorbing all of this, she suddenly turned to me: “You ARE Catholic, right?”
I was a bit perplexed by her question. I have a lot of Catholic friends and we all share one thing in common: we all passionately love Jesus! Where did that question come from? “Euh no,” I answered, “but I am a Christian!”
“Oh!” Her face fell. “Then you are the wrong kind of Christian!” She quickly changed the topic.
Hum. I guess she must have been working for a Catholic organization! I wanted to laugh out loud, but I restrained myself, for I could hear the lady who had interrupted us before calling out: “I’m Catholic! I’m Catholic!”
As I thought about these two different scenarios, I couldn’t help realizing that my boys had shown me love with no strings attached, except for the one that dumped the beanie babies over my head! But there were strings attached with that delegate who wanted me to work for her organization. I didn’t feel welcomed by her because I was the “wrong kind of Christian”!
If only we could all show love to one another with no strings attached! After all, this is what Jesus ordered us to do: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Although this kind of love exists on our planet, it can be very hard to find. Being a follower of Christ, which sets Jesus as the standard, is often confused with religion, which sets human standards on salvation. Religion makes one judgmental: “I am better than you!” Being a follower of Christ makes us love others as Jesus loves them: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12 NIV)
Did you know that in the first century A.D., a large number of rabbinic writings stressed the importance of circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath keeping? This is quite unusual and is solely characteristic of that time period. Why that focus on these three practices? Is it possible that in an era colored by a new “sect” called “Christians” who taught that circumcision and dietary laws were not important, they were trying to set themselves apart as the elect? “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20 NIV)
Due to their rituals and special beliefs, Jewish authorities in those days thought they were superior to others, set apart as the elect of God. “The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'” (Luke 18:11-12 NIV) But this is religion, a man-made way to salvation that leads directly to hell! Whenever a church proclaims that its religion is the only right one, or when its members are judgmental towards one another, run away from that church! Its roads do not lead to heaven, but to hell!
Salvation cannot be obtained through human efforts. Salvation was made possible solely by Jesus, the Son of God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-10 NIV); and “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV)
Have you noticed that Jesus was never judgmental? In fact, sinners were attracted to Jesus! “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?'” (Matt 9:11 NIV) However He recoiled from those who were self-made “religious” people proclaiming a human-based salvation: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matt 23:15 NIV)
I am proud to be a different kind of Christian. To me, human rituals mean nothing. Only Jesus is my guide! I am proud also of all the volunteers at Answers2Prayer, who, though from very different religious backgrounds (Catholic to Baptist to Pentecostal, to non-denominational!), are all united under Jesus, following Him as our guide and Master. His love compels us to reach out towards others. We are united because Jesus is our Master!
Are you a different kind of Christian? Or do you just “go with the flow” unaware of where it may lead you?