taking the words of Jesus seriously

So. . .I’m currently stuck at the airport. It has been one of those mornings where you show up for the flight on time, you’re all ready to go and then you get to those electronic check in machines and all of a sudden the news hits you, “you did all that for nothing, you are not going anywhere. . .at least for now”

Given that I travel quite regularly for speaking this is, unfortunately, an all to common reality. It’s a helpless feeling really. For each event I have a sheet that directs my every move, I have times for speaking, eating, pick-ups, drop-offs, even down time. Needless to say my day is fairly planned out. A canceled flight simply does not fit into this schedule. It’s just not convenient. . .

A couple years back I was in a similar situation. Sitting in the airport after one of my flights was canceled, I was busy calling anyone and everyone who may be able to help me escape from my then current predicament. After what seemed like hours of dead end phone calls (more than likely it was only 30 minutes worth) I decided to take a break to go and purchase a newspaper and a cup of coffee. If I am going to be stuck at the airport I might as well make myself comfortable.

While sitting at a small table outside the airport coffee shop/newsstand I witnessed a young man working his way among the people in the gate area across from the coffee shop. As the people waited for the boarding announcement to be made, he was handing out copies of that little booklet The Four Spiritual Laws.

There was an elderly African-American man slumped in a seat in the waiting area, sound asleep. He was a dignified figure with white curly hair and a fashionably tailored suit. This old man was as sound asleep as a man could get, but the young man was not about to be deterred by that. He tapped the man on the knee. When the old man woke, he was extremely startled. He blurted out, “Where am I? What’s going on? What’s happening?” From my location across the main airport hallway I heard the persistent young man simply and sternly ask, “Sir, Are you saved?”

“Yeah, ” said the old man. “I guess I’m saved! I suppose I’m saved! Yes! I’m probably saved!”

“That’s not good enough!” I heard the young man respond. “Can you tell me exactly when you were saved?”

“Not exactly, ” the old man answered. “It was almost two thousand years ago!”

Now that’s good theology. As I sat outside the coffee shop I considered the old mans response for quite some time. I began to think about how our salvation is dependent on what Jesus did two thousand years ago. That’s when our salvation was purchased and when we were delivered from the punishment for our sins. We may have just found out about it recently, but Jesus did what needed to be done long ago and far away, on an old rugged cross.

Not to long after witnessing this interaction I received a phone call from my office, they had a new flight for me and I proceeded towards my gate. On my way I continued to ponder what I had just seen. This was the kind of experience you don’t always have the opportunity to see when things are “convenient.” Often times it is in those moments; moments all to often filled with complaining and frustration, that I am able to witness something quite remarkable, something that otherwise would have slipped right by.

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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