Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General, tells of a surprising incident that shaped the way he thought about his life. It happened when he was a child in Ghana.
“I witnessed a scene in my father’s office which shocked me quite a bit. He was looking over a set of accounts. He had a question on something, so he called one of the junior managers, and of course the fellow came rushing right in. But the fellow was smoking. He put the cigarette---still lit---into his pants pocket because my father didn’t smoke and didn’t approve of people who did. And he stood there as he talked to my father, with his pocket burning, obviously in some distress. Finally he finished his business and walked out.
“I was really shocked. I said to my father angrily, “Why did you do that to him? You made him put his cigarette in his pocket.”
“My father looked at me and really gave me a lecture. He said, ‘I did not. There was an ashtray here; he could have used that. He could have excused himself and gone and thrown it out. He could have continued smoking. He put the cigarette in his pocket. He need not have done that.’
“My father looked at me and said, ‘Today, you saw something you should never do. Don’t crawl.’”
Don’t crawl. Some churches I’ve been in fail to heed that advice. They greet newcomers with a polite “Hello,” but unconsciously convey a message that says, “We’re small and struggling and not what we used to be, but we need more bodies and more money, and we could use you.” Crawling.
Some Christians I know crawl around, too. In the name of being nice or keeping the peace, they hope not to make waves, and certainly don’t wish to make anyone take notice of their faith. No mention of religion or church. Wouldn’t want to offend.
I wonder about the times I have remained silent when a word of kindness or concern was needed. I fret over situations when I have “passed by on the other side” of someone who needed help because my schedule was too full to stop. Have I got God so compartmentalized to one morning a week that I fail to find God everywhere I am? And am I so unsure of my faith that I remain tongue-tied when putting in a good word for God is called for?
Anything short of following God fully, anything less than making Jesus the pattern for our lives, is just crawling around. The early Methodists knew this, and so they gathered together into small groups to pray together, share their lives, study Scripture, and support one another in their faith journeys. They refused to crawl before the disapproval of others, but walked uprightly with God.
Jesus did not crawl to the cross, but went willingly and courageously. A cross may not be at the end of our journey. But, when we walk forward in the fullness of our faith surrounded by a community of love, a bright new life surely will.