John Mellencamp's song Small Town is, in many ways, my story. I was born in a small town. I have since moved to the big town but I am still a small town guy at heart.
Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that's me
I was indeed taught the fear of Jesus in a small town. Boy howdy was I taught that! And the fear of God is certainly something that needs to be taught. But the rest of the story was not taught nearly as well. I wasn't taught the love of Jesus nearly as passionately as I was taught judgment and wrath.
Dr. Karl Barth was one of the most brilliant theologians of the twentieth century. He wrote weighty volumes on faith. A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all of his voluminous works. Dr. Barth thought for a moment and then said: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." I wish we would default to that more in our journey.
No I cannot forget from where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be
I cannot forget where it is I come from physically. That origin helps define me. Somehow I am prone to forget how desperate I was for grace and forgiveness. Paul reminds Titus to tell the believers in Crete to remember where they came from…
Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. These teachings are good and beneficial for everyone. Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. (Titus 3, NLT)
That is where I came from as a follower of Jesus. My constant challenge is to not forget where I came from.
* If I can't forgive then I have forgotten where I came from and I have forgotten how much I have been forgiven.
* When I look with disdain at another person I have forgotten where I came from. That person is a soul that Jesus loves. This I know for the Bible tells me so.
* When I don't accept another brother or sister I have forgotten where I came from. I have forgotten that I was unacceptable to a Holy God and that Jesus I am acceptable because of Him. We must offer the same grace because of Jesus.
* When I can't serve without expectation of personal return I have forgotten where I came from. If I remember where I came from I will serve because I am grateful for the amazing grace of Jesus.
* When I don't give joyfully of my time and treasure I have forgotten where I came from. If you truly understand where you came from the natural response is to serve Him joyfully.
This is important stuff. I don't want to forget where I came from both as a person and as a child of God. My small town Chillicothe, Ohio roots are a big part of who I am. And my encounter with grace at the foot of the Cross defines who I am spiritually. I pray that I will remember every day who I am and where Jesus brought me from. I was born in a small town but I was redeemed by a big God.
Jesus loves me.
Jesus loves me.
This I know.