14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:14-21 (ESV)
I am a work in progress. And whenever I start feeling like I have come closer to the mark of Christ, the Lord reveals to me that He has a lot more work to do in me. And it is usually my own stupid disobedience that opens the door to His revelation of my sinful nature.
Have you heard of an ichthys?An ichthys is the simple line symbol of a fish (ichthys being Greek for “fish”). It is how ancient Christians, fearing retribution from Romans,secretly identified themselves to one another – by drawing an ichthys in the dirt. It serves as an apt reminder of Who Christ is, and who we are as disciples: fishers of men.
Like many Christians, I have an ichthys on my car. But I have mine for a very specific reason.
Allow me to tell you a little story…
Once upon a time, long ago in the faraway land of suburban Chicago, there lived a beautiful maiden and her hot tempered, knuckleheaded husband. The two had just moved there from small town Indiana a few weeks prior and still had corn husks behind their ears. Dealing with city folk was not yet their forte.
It was a fine late summer day, and the two decided to take a trip back home, their first since leaving the cornfields behind. Their car was packed and, with the husband behind the wheel, off they went.
However, they had only travelled two blocks when trouble began. The husband was attempting to turn left from a side street onto a very busy four-lane highway. Impatience being a virtue on Chicagoland roads, the person in the car behind him decided to pull up to the Hoosier couple’s right and, just as traffic cleared, turn left alongside them – cutting them off and nearly hitting them in the process.
When the two cars arrived alongside each other at the first stoplight – both cars with windows down to let in the fresh air and gorgeous sunlight – the Hoosier inquired of the suburbanite as to any problems he may have. The suburbanite assured the Hoosier had no particular issues and, likewise, inquired what problems the Hoosier may have.
Just as the Hoosier suggested that he was certain the suburbanite must have some major problem – I believe “malfunction” may have been the word he chose – the light turned green and the two sped forward to the next red light to continue their conversation. When the Hoosier suggested to the suburbanite that more careful driving techniques would be a most reasonable goal for him to aim for, the suburbanite made a suggestion about the Hoosier’s mother that would have made Sam Kinison blush.
This tine, as the light turned green, the two continued their conversation as they sped onward, their language and volume increasing (probably due to the sound of the wind whistling between their vehicles at 55 mph). Suddenly the suburbanite decided to help the Hoosier find an alternate route (where no road existed) by quickly and sharply turning his car in the direction of the Hoosier vehicle, to which he was still travelling parallel at 55 mph.
The Hoosier’s quick reflexes, stealth manouevering (and slamming on the breaks) avoided just the sort of accident that ignoring the aforementioned careful driving suggestion could cause. It was at this moment, as the Hoosier car had slowed to around 30 mph and the suburbanite sped off down the road, that the Hoosier husband realized his beautiful wife had been screaming at him the whole time to cool down, shut up and get away from the suburbanite (although I don’t remember her using the word “suburbanite”).
The remaining four hours in the car passed silently. However, once they arrived at the Hoosier husband’s mother’s house, the wife became quite chatty with her mother-in-law. The word “spew” comes to mind, like the violent force that pushes water out of a hydrant.
Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable evening for the Hoosier husband.
A few days after returning to their suburban Chicago apartment, the Hoosier husband heard a news story. Two cars were speeding down one of the tollways in the midst of an altercation. As they drove along yelling at each other, one pulled out a gun and shot the other, killing him.
The next day, I went to the local Christian bookstore and bought an ichthys. I have had one on every vehicle I have owned since. It isn’t so people will look at my car and say, “Oh! He’s a Christian.” It is to remind me that I am proclaiming to be a Christian so that I don’t blow my witness by getting angry over something stupid like being cut off on the road.
It reminds me of Who Christ is, and who I am – a humble fisher of men. A follower of Christ. A sinner saved by grace. The undeserving recipient of God’s love and kindness.
A work in progress.