AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Jon Williams
I must admit, when I signed on to start writing a few blog posts for The Parish, I never imagined my first post would be about…
But it is oddly full circle for me.
I came to faith in 1993 at the tail end of high school. (I’ll spare you the math… I’m 48.) And I arrived at this decision because of a classmate who was bold enough to talk to me about “the gospel.”
Over the course of a semester, this young man gently, yet persistently, talked to me about the importance of giving my life to Christ. Being the people pleaser that I am, I eventually relented to his onslaught of proselytizing and listened to what he had to say.
I received a tract.
I learned about the Romans Road (not a real place in Scripture, if you’re wondering).
I learned about Sin.
I learned about my separation from God.
I learned there was a great tribulation coming where I would be separated from God forever and live in Hell for eternity.
And I was asked where I would be on the final days “clearly foretold” in…
What he shared scared the Hell out of me. Literally. I didn’t want any part of Hell. I wanted to escape the flames of Hell, the pit of sulfur, the rage and ire of the great beast… all that stuff.
So, I did what you do: I became a Christian, accepting Christ and proving it by going to church one Sunday morning to be baptized and announce my salvation from Hell. And then I joined Bible studies. I read Christian fiction by Frank E. Peretti and Tim LaHaye.
I studied every apologetics book I could get my hands on so I could find a way to break through the “worldly” barrier around the minds of my fellow college theatre majors, but I made sure not to mingle with them lest I became “of this world.”
I wanted to save as many from Hell as I could because that was my mission.
My duty as a warrior for Christ.
And on that day of reckoning, I wanted to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” because of the harvest of souls I had gathered for my Savior.
And then, I had a—
It was after I had married my wife, had kids, and worked in ministry for several years at a large church that this epiphany arrived. I had an actual “come-to-Jesus moment.”
This life with Christ was… empty. It was about one thing: escaping Hell. And other than that, it was a series of rules: no drinking, no premarital sex, no swearing, no skipping church, etc. Those aren’t bad things to shoot for. I’m not knocking those things. But the rules and the goal of “sealing the deal” with sinners and getting them to make the “transaction” of accepting a ticket out of Hell by holding on to the name of Jesus just felt…
Jesus wasn’t a person. Wasn’t Life. Wasn’t the Way.
Jesus had become a thing. An insurance policy. A battle cry.
But worse… not real.
Luckily, as you’ve probably come to realize, Jesus never stops being real.
With the guidance of friends, family, co-workers and the experience of a few more years of life, Scripture started to reveal its true nature and calling in my life. It was calling me to bring heaven, Jesus himself, into this world… NOW. And that isn’t done with head knowledge. It isn’t done with doctrine or debate.
It would have to be done with my life. Loving others as Christ loves me is the greatest way for others to see him. And the ways that Christ loves me are… well… the depths I may never know.
I used to fear…
Because it was terrifying. But now, reading it as a description of the hope in Christ all can have and a direct reflection of the lengths to which he will go to love us and never leave us… It is only fitting that I offer Christ-love to others. No matter who they are. No matter where they have been. No matter what situation.
I hope to do that.
That’s my most recent…