Saintly Encounters (a parable)

One day, two Christian men approached God.

"We've read the Bible every day for our entire lives, and we know what it says." they said. "What could we do to gain more understanding?"

God said, "Continue on your way, and I will reveal to you men of faith to help you understand the scriptures."

The following day, as the men were walking downtown, they heard yelling. As they followed the sound, a rugged, elderly man came into view. He was holding an old, worn Bible in his hand and speaking emphatically. But the closer they got, the more they realized that he was barely understandable. His speech was unsophisticated and he stuttered frequently. Unlike other preachers of his kind they had encountered, this man appeared to have a following with him. But they all looked tired and frustrated. When the old man walked, the people walked with him, grumbling the whole way. Unable to get to the speaker, one of the two men approached a follower and asked, "Why do you stay with him?"

"We are stranded and have nowhere to go," the follower replied. "We used to live comfortably and never lacked food or water, but we foolishly chose to follow this man and now we are going to starve."

A discussion arose among some of the followers as to how they could go back. Desperate for the familiar, they began to sing a song of worship they had known since childhood. Hearing them, the old man turned, red in the face with fury. He threw down his old, worn Bible which tore apart into several pieces on the street. He began to shout even louder.

The two men quickly ran away, bewildered. They prayed to God and said, "What a dreadful sight! We are so glad most of your people are not like that. What should we do?"

God responded, "Continue on your way, and I will reveal to you men of faith to help you understand the scriptures."

The next day, the two friends were having coffee together, and a solo musician came to play there. The two men were very impressed with the man's music. As he sang, they were enraptured by his deeply passionate lyrics about God. Thinking this might be one of the "men of faith" that God had promised, they approached the musician after his performance and asked if they could visit with him.

"Sure!" the attractive, well-dressed young man replied. "I'll host you at my mansion."

Even more intrigued, the men follow the musician to his residence. It was clear as they pulled into his sprawling property that he was very wealthy and successful. But as soon as they came inside, they were overcome with a scene unlike any they had experienced. All over the walls were weapons, pictures of war, and maps that seemed to depict battle strategies for conquering neighboring countries. They also quickly noticed that the musician had quite a bit of female company in the mansion, some of them caring for children.

The men asked, "Who are all these women?"

The musician smiled and winked, and then left the room.

Stunned and without words, the men were whisked off into another part of the mansion and served a large meal by the musician's cooks and butlers. They ate sitting next to a window, looking at each other quizzically, trying to figure out what to do next. Near the end of their meal, they looked out to see the musician in the yard of a next door neighbor, trying to peak inside a fogged up window.

"What could he be doing?" they ask themselves. It wasn't more than a few minutes later that the men noticed the musician back inside, walking upstairs to a bedroom with another woman they hadn't seen yet.

Unable to take anymore, the men excused themselves and ran out of the house. They prayed to God and said, "What a dreadful sight! We are so glad most of your people are not like that. What should we do?"

God responded, "Continue on your way, and I will reveal to you men of faith to help you understand the scriptures."

The next day was Sunday. As they did every week, the men got dressed and walked with their families to their church. Everything was as it should be, until the men entered the church and heard a loud racket down the hall. As they turned a corner, they froze in place as they saw a lanky man who smelled and looked homeless knocking over tables where volunteers were taking orders for Sunday School curriculum and signing people up for church activities. No one knew what to do. The man seemed defenseless and had other people with him the likes of whom no one in this suburban church had ever seen: like the woman who was shockingly dressed, or the man with cuts all over him.

The pastor emerged from among the members and, using a tone the men had not heard from him before, said, "How dare you come into this holy place and carry on like this? What do you think you're doing?"

Without missing a beat, the homeless man - calm but firm - then launched into a tirade against the minister. He accused the pastor of hypocrisy and misguiding his people.

He then turned to the parishioners standing by and warned them to repent, accusing them of basing their faith on trivial matters and safe pursuits.

As the homeless man continued to talk and offend every good believer there, the two men were amazed by his knowledge of the scriptures, and how no one, not even the pastor, had an answer for him.

Furious and overwhelmed, the men ran out of the church and prayed to God once again:

"How can you allow such a man in our church? We are thankful that we are not like any of the dreadful people we've met in the last few days. We know what the Bible says and how wrong they are in their thinking and acting. But now, what about our request? We asked for a deeper understanding of the scriptures...when are you going to reveal these men of faith that you promised?"

"My dear friends," replied God, "you have met Moses, David, and Jesus, recognizing none of them. Go and learn the scriptures, for your journey has just begun."

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