Who is this Jesus guy? Now I know
By Dr. Gregory B. Boyd, pastor,
First Baptist Church, Hartsville
If you are reading this column, there is a good chance you grew up in church or have attended church for many years. Keep reading. I believe you will get a good idea of what’s going on when an unchurched person hears about Jesus. If you are reading this and would categorize yourself as a “NONE” regarding religious affiliations (you do not identify with any organized religion), keep reading. I believe you will gain insight into what Jesus and Christianity is really about. I grew up in a military family. We moved 12 times by the time I entered junior high (middle school). While that had many advantages, a disadvantage was that I did not grow up in a local church. My parents made my older brother and me go to the base chapel’s Sunday school when we were young, but none of us attended the church services. I could sum up that experience in one word: b-o-r-i-n-g. We begged our parents to not make us go and when I was about 9, they agreed. For the next several years we would all attend a church service once in a while on a Christmas or Easter. It’s not that we were against Jesus, the church or Christians. It just wasn’t part of our routine. We had so much more to do on Sundays! When I entered high school, we were stationed near Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Like most beach towns, Fort Walton was a party town, and students at my high school boasted of their outrageous party reputation. I started running track and cross country, and it was through running that I started going to those parties! One day when we were training, a teammate asked us if we wanted to go to an FCA meeting with him. I had no idea what that meant. All I could think of was maybe a new attraction opened on the beach — “Fun City…?” He explained that it stood for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and that a coach would read a little bit of the Bible and then open discussion for questions. Oh. I made the excuses about having too much homework or whatever. The next day during our run, a couple of the guys who did go talked about it as if they liked it. When they mentioned good food and cheerleaders being there, that really got my attention! Eventually, I did take up their offer. We met in someone’s living room. I sat in a corner and just kept quiet and listened. During one discussion, a football player said, “Coach, Jesus said we’re supposed to turn the other cheek. But what should I do if someone gives me a cheap shot on the field? I can’t stand there and just take it.” I thought, “Yeah, coach, answer that one.” I continued to go. There was just something different about those meetings — the authenticity, the lack of pomp and ceremony, and, as I discovered later, I believe there was a genuine, unseen, presence of the Lord there. One day much later, I noticed the beauty of nature and the trails that I enjoyed running on, and thought, “Maybe there is a God. But this JESUS guy they keep talking about, I just don’t know about that.” But I kept going to FCA. On Easter Sunday of my junior year, I did not go to church. I sat home and watched an old movie on TV about the Easter story. That night as I lay in bed, I thought about Jesus from the movie and FCA meetings. Jesus has always been God. He had a miraculous birth, a sinless life, an undeserved death, and somehow, he actually arose from the grave. Then it came to me almost like a wave, Jesus is real. Jesus is real! I was instantly filled with a joy I could not explain. My life was changed in an instant … sort of. I look forward to telling the rest of this story next time.