"It's Not Who You Would Think"
October 20, 2012
A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And He (Jesus) said to them, ... "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves." Luke 22:24-25a, 26b
The host of the radio program on which I was being interviewed asked, "So, Reverend, who is the greatest Christian you ever met?"
No doubt he expected I would mention a great church leader or mega-church preacher. Maybe he thought I would speak of a giant in industry, who had remained faithful to his Christian values. Truly, I have met such people, but they aren't at the top of my list of greatest Christians.
So, who is on my list? Please understand if I don't give you their names. No, it's not because these people aren't real; they're as real as you. I'm not going to tell you because none of these individuals would ever think -- could possibly imagine -- that they were on my, or anybody else's, list. No, I'm not going to tell you because I don't want to embarrass them -- or their memory -- if they have already gone home to the Lord.
So who is on my list? There was the pastor who in the midst of the Great Depression moved his family to South Dakota. When his children asked why, he said, "If I don't go, who will?" He spent the rest of his life there: underpaid, underappreciated, serving congregations other pastors avoided. When he retired, his children helped him fix up a small house. It was all he could afford. Yet he smiled, and he taught me what it means to be a loving shepherd of God's flock.
There is another pastor on my list. This one was in a congregational battle. No, it wasn't his fault, but many folks thought it had been. The pastor could have cleared himself and ended the battle if he had only shared one, small piece of information, which had been given him in confidence. It would have been so easy. I can tell you this pastor will go home to his Lord never having revealed what he knows. For him it is enough that God knows the truth. And how do I know all this? Not from him, my friends, not from him.
There are many laypeople on my list. There is the woman whose heart was broken when she was told she couldn't have children. For 30 years she served as a spiritual mother to all the congregation's children. She told them about Jesus in Sunday school; she remembered their birthdays; she followed their lives. She showed me Jesus' love can conquer a severe setback.
On my list there is a widowed farmer. When the church had to build an addition to its school and did not have the wherewithal to finance the project, he quietly visited the town bankers. He offered the family farm, his home, his equipment, his vehicle, and his insurance policies as collateral for the building project. The congregation never understood why the bank, all of a sudden, become so friendly.
There are five families on my list. These five all suffered the loss of a child; they endured the darkest night that can descend on human souls. Each of them didn't understand why, but they understood Jesus was their Friend. That is why the Sundays after the funeral they were all in church. The rest of us could not comprehend the pain they endured, sitting in a pew which held one less person. Still, they were there and made their witness about the comfort that comes for those who know Jesus as Savior.
While there are others on my list, there is only one more whom I will mention. He was a young person, a teen who was entering my confirmation class. You should know my class was tough, designed to challenge almost any student. Because the class was so tough I wanted to teach this young man privately. Although he was a good boy, I knew he simply could not keep up academically. When I made my suggestion, he rejected it. He told me he wanted to try my class. And try he did. I have no idea how many hours he put in trying to master the material. All I know is this: for months he studied night and day. When the inquisition of my final exam was over, he had correctly answered every question I had put before him. Those who knew the situation also knew they had seen a miracle. Me, I had tears in my eyes. As I write this, I still do.
Someday perhaps I shall share the others who have made my list. For right now, this devotion is long enough and needs to end. So let it end this way: God does amazing things through His people when they take Him seriously. He makes an amazing witness through those who reflect the Savior in their lives. And I, as a pastor, give thanks for having known a few of these great Christians, who serve a greater Savior.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the book of Hebrews says we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. I give thanks for those people who reflect the love they have received from Jesus. While I do not yearn for greatness, let others see in me the greatness of the Savior, who gave Himself for my salvation. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries