I Am What I Am!

   Written by on October 12, 2017 at 11:44 am

logo-smith-gregRecently, I was reminded of an old story that I’ve heard many times, and perhaps you have, too.  The version told by one comedian says that an old man and his grandson had a donkey named Hiney that they needed to take to market.  So they set out with the boy on the donkey’s back and the grandfather walking.  They came across a lady who criticized, “I can’t believe that boy’s making the old man walk!”  So they grandfather took the boy off, and sat on the donkey himself.  Later, they passed a man who remarked, “That old man is so selfish, not sharing the ride with his boy!”  So the grandfather pulled the boy up on the donkey’s back and together they rode on.  Sometime later, they passed a girl who said, “Those cruel people are going to break that poor donkey’s back—they ought to give him a ride, instead!”  So they climbed down and hoisted the donkey on their backs together.  Pretty soon they came to a rope bridge.  By the time they got to the middle, the wind picked up and the bridge swayed and caused them to lose their balance.  Over the donkey went, and fell to her death.  And the moral of the story is, if you try to please everybody, you’ll lose your Hiney!

In this age of political correctness, we are told that the best thing to do is please everybody, and offend nobody.  But the truth is, in a society as diverse as ours, it’s impossible to please everybody—and if you try, you’ll lose your hiney.  So the best thing is to quit trying to be politically correct, and be true to who you are—your core personality and your beliefs.  Be kind about it as you’re being yourself, though.  Don’t intentionally be offensive as you defend your faith.  James 1:261 says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.”  Proverbs 12:18 tells us, “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.”  So many scriptures remind us to make sure that our words are loving and kind—but kindness and political correctness are two different things.  Political correctness tries to please everybody, and that’s impossible.  So be true to who you are, and speak boldly for your faith.

John 18:1-18, 25-27 gives us two contrasting examples—one of Jesus who is true to Himself, and one of Peter who denies his core beliefs.  When the Pharisees and soldiers came to arrest Jesus with swords, clubs, and torches in their hands, Jesus knew he would be delivered up for crucifixion.  He knew how severe the consequences would be for identifying himself.  Yet, three times He did so, saying, “I am He (verse 5)…I am He…I am the one you want (verse 8).”  , “As Jesus said ‘I am he,’ they all drew back and fell to the ground (verse 6)!”  I believe this happened for two reasons.

First, because when Jesus says, “I Am,” He is speaking the name of God as given to Moses at the Burning Bush: “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14)  But He is not just speaking the name as anybody else would—He, God Himself, I Am, incarnate in Jesus, is speaking His own name.  And the power of that is so great that it knocks everyone back.  Here we see Philippians 2:10, which says that “every knee should bow,” coming to literal fulfillment.  And one day, not just a hoard of oppressors but the whole earth will bow before His name.

Second, I believe that the testimony of any believer is a powerful thing.  When we say, “I am who I am, and I refuse to hide, regardless of the consequences,” the forces of darkness are thrown backwards.  Note that Jesus never said anything unkind, but clearly states the truth in an inoffensive way.  They are thrown back by the power of it, not by any offensive words that Jesus uses.  Too often we Christians see the world coming with swords and clubs and torches, and we respond from the flesh rather than from the spirit.  We return insult for insult, injury for injury, and in doing so we earn a bad name for believers.  While we shouldn’t give in to political correctness, we should stand for the truth in plain speech and loving action.  Only that will cause the world to stagger back in light of the truth.

In contrast to Jesus, who remained true to Himself and spoke the truth in love, Peter denied his core beliefs and his identity as a disciple.  Just Jesus identified Himself three times, Peter denied who he was as a follower of Christ three times.  “The woman asked Peter, ‘You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?’  ‘No,’ he said, ‘I am not.’” (v. 17) Later,“as Simon Peter was standing by the fire warming himself, they asked him again, ‘You’re not one of his disciples, are you?’  He denied it, saying, ‘No, I am not.’” (v. 25) Finally, “one of the household slaves of the high priest…asked, ‘Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?’ Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.” (vv. 26-27)  Peter caved in to the pressures of political correctness, denied who he was, and in the process denied his Lord.  When he realized what he had done, he wept bitterly and likely remained in that miserable state until Jesus restored him after the resurrection.

Today, so many people in our culture have misconceptions about what Christianity really is that many believers feel pressure to deny or apologize for their faith.  So-called Christians who behave in ungodly and unloving ways have swayed public opinion and made them judge all Christians in light of the extreme few.  But instead of being like Peter who covered up his faith, true believers need to shine a light of Christlike behavior and godly love.  Like Jesus, we need to say, “I am what I am,” even if it gets us in trouble.  Today, I wonder, how many Jesus-followers are willing to put their necks on the line to stand firmly for the love of God?

In October of 1555, Protestants Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were martyred for their faith by the English crown, which was Catholic at the time.  As both burned at the stake, Latimer was consumed by smoke and died painlessly, but Ridley’s pyre was made of green wood and made him simmer rather than burning him outright.  Latimer’s last words were ones of encouragement to his friend: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out.”

This is a gruesome reminder from the not-too-distant past, that sometimes believers pay with their lives for faithfulness to Christ.  Certainly, Peter was afraid that he, too, could be martyred if he publicly aligned with Jesus.  But Jesus Himself was not afraid to say, “I Am what I Am,” even though He knew it would mean His death.  What will you do, when they ask what you believe?  In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”  This doesn’t mean being obnoxious about your religion, but it does mean being true to your faith, and to your Lord.  Political correctness says that we shouldn’t ever offend anyone—but if you try to please everybody, you lose your hiney.  Try not to offend your neighbors if you can, out of kindness, not political correctness.  But it’s better to please God and remain faithful to Jesus.  Only then can we light a candle and set it on a stand, so its brightness can outshine the darkness of this world.

(Endnotes)

1 Scripture quotations are taken from the NLT.

©2017 by Gregory T. Smith. Reprinted with permission revgregsmith.blogspot.com

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.

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