Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
- Acts 2:5-15
“My spiritual director once told me, ‘Brennan, give up trying to look and sound like a saint. It will be a lot easier on everybody.’
“Living by grace inspires a growing consciousness that I am what I am in the sight of Jesus and nothing more. It is His approval that counts.”
- Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
I have written and spoken about how I accepted Jesus while in bed trying to sleep. I have rarely written about how I shared my new-found faith with my mother, who was among many things: the Sunday school teacher, choir director, church organist, church historian, etc., besides her full-time job, mostly for a family doctor. She became extremely angry when I told her I had accepted Jesus as my Savior and said that she would beat my faith out of me. Besides her indominable will to control her children for their entire lives, she thought I had become a Hippie Jesus Freak overnight – something akin to a sickness that could be cured with the right treatment.
I need not have worried about her “beating” anything out of me. For one, I knew Jesus had come to stay. For another, she had only laid a hand on me two times in my memory. Her “go-to” move was to have me wait until my Dad got home. He was the physical force that she applied. He worked on the road and only came by to “visit” for a few days each month, and sometimes not even then, going from one job to another or having a job that took 2-3 months to complete.
When he came home a few weeks later, over which time my mother and I rarely spoke, he said something along the lines of Brennan Manning’s spiritual director (spiritual director as in connection with AA, since Manning had been a Franciscan priest, since laicized). My Dad told me that if I became too much of a Jesus Freak, I would have a hard time getting a job, a hard time keeping a job, and I could forget ever getting a promotion.
How right my father was, but maybe not for that reason. I love Jesus and I am sure that my love of Jesus showed at work, but I have an odd temperament, with about one percent of the population being just like me, plus or minus environmental influences and magnitude of various biases. And being an introvert, it would be next to impossible to casually bump into someone like me. Introverts avoid crowds that large and if forced to go, they find a quiet corner. Thus, since I was different, I was wrong – in the boss’ eyes.
Then there was the above average intelligence. I could get assignments done quickly. I was so quick at it that one boss, in a rare moment of honesty, called me into the office to have a screaming rant 2-3 inches from being nose-to-nose. The gist of his rant was that he did not have enough time in his day to keep dreaming up things for me to do, since I did them so quickly. I was driving him crazy turning in something for him to review after 2-3 hours that would take someone else in the department a week to work on, or longer. You would think that he would be grateful, but he wasn’t. After the ten-minute rant, he gave me the only assignment that I have never been able to master, not then or any time since. “Now, go back to your desk and pretend to be busy!!!!!” The best that I could accomplish on that task was obvious boredom.
The Scripture above is from the first Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension. The apostles and the others with them were in the courtyard of the temple speaking every language know within the Roman Empire. And what did the crowd think? It was obvious that they were drunk. What other explanation could there be?
Peter’s argument was that it was early in the day and it was impossible for them to be drunk. Some of the guys that I worked with brought up this story at a group dinner. When we had a team testing and tuning a new furnace (commissioning), we would dine in the evenings as a group. There would be possibly 12 men around the table and enough alcohol for 50 men. On one of these occasions, the one when Acts 2 was mentioned, as one of the guys was getting tipsy, he brought up Peter’s argument and said, “For us around this table (excluding me in that I had not had a drop of alcohol), Peter’s argument is null and void, because I daresay that each of us will have flammable breath well past nine tomorrow morning.” Everyone laughed, but I was worried that he might be correct, while working on an industrial furnace, trying to obtain a flame … safely?! The image kept going through my mind of the flame-eating circus acts. It did not seem safe to be near the furnace the next day, so I directed the customer’s trainees in a different direction, mostly staying in the classroom. Actually, we did have a guy lose his job by showing up at a customer’s jobsite under the influence. Not that time, but on a different job. On the occasion in question, they had such hangovers that they could hardly light a match the following morning.
It is odd that at the company where I worked nearly 20 years, drinking to excess was accepted and celebrated behavior. On the other hand, I may have been the only one to get the “Bibles in China” lecture. “Do not take more than one Bible and only in your carry-on luggage into the People’s Republic of China. They will confiscate your Bibles and they will probably send you home, flagging your visa as a troublemaker. Since you will never be able to enter China again, we will be forced to fire you because you would be unable to perform your duties as assigned.” I copied chapters upon chapters and hid the electronic files on my laptop. I took one Bible, mostly in defiance. It was a good thing that I did, since the websites that I usually used to read the Scriptures each day were blocked by the Chinese Communist Party’s web server’s “Big Brother.” Those sites as well as any outside news feeds – all blocked.
“Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty”—Henry burst from his imaginary chains and grasped an ivory letter opener—“or give me death!”
- www.history.com, Patrick Henry’s Liberty or Death Speech
Yes, Patrick Henry is correct. The words ring true once again, as some wish to silence us. And it especially rings true when considering we need liberty to worship the one true God as we ought.
And Brennan Manning’s words ring true as well. Do not worry about human approval, it is only Jesus’ whose approval I seek.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.