August 20, 2007
The Stones Cry Out
by Pastor George Van Alstine
How do you measure the influence Jesus has had on the world? You might figure the percentage of people across the globe who identify themselves as Christians, although the majority of these are probably not true believers. Or you might calculate the number of copies of the Bible, the worldâs number-one best-seller, purchased in one year.
Iâve just discovered a less direct, but more impressive measure. I call it the âThree Câs.â? These Three Câs are particularly interesting because theyâre the testimony of unwitting, even unwilling witnesses. In a sense, these Three Câs are a fulfilment of the prophecy Jesus himself made, when religious leaders asked him to stop his disciples from loudly praising him: âI tell you, if these were silent, the stones would cry outâ? (Luke 19:40). Stones, inanimate objects, un-intentionally praising Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Some of the most powerful witnesses to the compelling Person of Jesus are people who may not even believe in him. Here are my Three Câs:
Crosses â Iâm not talking about the crosses that are central to worship, in the front of a sanctuary, or on top of a steeple. Iâm talking about crosses that are decorative or part of an unconscious habit. Many people from Catholic backgrounds cross themselves without any conscious awareness. Some baseball players from Latin American countries cross themselves, without fail, every time they come up to bat. They are thinking of the pitcherâs history, what pitch heâs likely to throw, whether or not to take the first pitch. They are not thinking about Jesus. They are like stones crying out in praise.
As a decoration, particularly on a necklace, a beautiful cross is part of every glamorous womanâs repertoire. Often the cross is made of gold, and it may be studded with diamonds. Itâs not uncommon for a young, super-rich celebrity to wear a bold cross nestled in her over-exposed cleavage. TV cameras sometimes unintentionally reveal this while sheâs being arrested for drunk driving.
Christmas â Itâs ironic that the holiday commemorating Jesusâ birth can be so devoid of Jesusâ spirit in the way it is celebrated. Materialism dominates the way this holiday is experienced by just about all of us. The greed of manufacturers and retailers is matched by the grasping, self-centeredness of people making lists of what they want for Christmas. But itâs still Christmas, and every time a purchase is made or a present opened, there is an unconsciousness testimony to the powerful influence of the Birthday Boy over human history. For more than a month, the title âChristâ? is in peoplesâ faces over and over again.
Cursing â The final C is the one I find most revealing. You canât escape itâin school, at work, all over the TV, in movies, in popular music. The name of Jesus is used in vain all the time, all around us: âJesus,â? âChrist,â? âJesus Christ,â? âFor Christâs Sake,â? âChrist Almighty.â? People have even come up with âpoliteâ? forms of the words so little ears arenât so easily offended: âGee,â? âGee Whiz,â? and the wonderful Australian âCrikey!â? Other Biblical curses add to the cacophony. âOh My Godâ? seems to slip from peopleâs lips quite easily, and âDamnâ? and âHellâ? are used all the time by people who donât believe in Hell and have no fear of damnation.
Iâve gotten over my instinct to chide people when they curse. Quite often, someone will blurt out âJesus Christ!â? then apologize when it dawns on them that Iâm a minister. Instead of responding with shock or scolding, if I say anything at all, itâs, âNo, youâve got me confused with someone else; Iâm George.â? Recently itâs dawned on me that this constant use of Jesusâ name and title by people who donât believe in him is a powerful witness to his inescapable Presence. Ever since he came into the world, he looms over the most secular situation, causing even atheists to blurt out his name.
In this Jesus is unique. We donât hear Jewish people swear in the name of Moses; they use Jesusâ name. Isnât that an interesting irony? People donât take the name of Mohammed in vainâthatâs not tolerated in Islam. And I donât hear the names of Buddha or Krishna used in cursing (maybe thatâs geographical). Jesus doesnât seem to protest; he tolerates this misuse of his name. Maybe he even endorses it, in an ironic way. As he prophesied, the stones are crying out.
Paul recognized in his day that not all those who used Jesusâ name were pure in motive or respectful of the one whoâs name they were using:
âSome proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition. What does it matter? Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.â? (Philippians 1:15-18)
Even the stones cry out! The witness of Crosses, Christians, and Cursing.