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August 27, 2019, 9:00 AM

Back-row Baptists


 

It has been a running joke as long as I can remember that in the Baptist church not only do people have their spot, but also, the back rows seem to be filled well more than those at the front of the sanctuary. Thus, the catchy little nickname. However, this is probably the same situation on most other churches regardless of denomination. It’s not just churches either, classrooms seem to have the same disproportion. It seems like nobody wants to get to close to the preacher or teacher. I know at my church people stay a couple of rows back because I, unfortunately, spit a little when I get excited while I’m preaching. The front row is justifiably known as the splash zone. Now, I know that’s not really the reason our front row serves the purpose of a lost and found better than a place for people to sit. I think it’s because people simply want to be comfortable. In school, the furthest I could get from the teacher, the better. I sure didn’t want to be called on to answer a question. I just wanted to come in, be seen and counted as present, listen to what the teacher said and go about my merry way. I am of the opinion it is the same way at church. People want to come in and be seen from a distance so someone will know they were there and not harass them about not coming. They want to simply sit and be a part of the congregation, and when it’s time, go home and live their best life now. I’m not trying to make introverts feel bad about how they are, I’m actually more of an introvert myself. The problem with this mentality and behavior is that it overflows into a person’s spiritual walk outside of the church. It’s like Peter warming himself by the fire as told by Mark in chapter 14:66-72 of his recording of the Gospel. Peter’s heart was passionate and his commitment to the Gospel is well recorded, but this moment in his walk found him choosing comfort over commitment. He was just close enough to Jesus to be aware of what was taking place, but not too close. He stayed back by the fire to warm himself. When he was rightfully accused being a Jesus follower, he vehemently denied it. He chose self-preservation over the risk of suffering the same outcome as Jesus. Now contrast that with the behavior of Joseph after the crucifixion of Christ. Mark 15:43 says that he went boldly to Pilate and requested the body of Jesus. The Greek word translated “boldly” implies that there was a great risk involved with Joseph’s actions, but he went before Pilate anyway. Because Jesus was condemned as an insurrectionist guilty of treason, anyone found to be an associate or accomplice would be at risk to suffer the same punishment. This didn’t seem to faze Joseph. The argument could be made that Joseph was a member of the council, why didn’t he speak on behalf of Jesus before? Or that the only reason he wanted the body of Christ was in order to adhere to Jewish law and customs. Either way, he took on a certain risk to make a bold statement amount his faith. Mark also tells us Joseph was a man who was waiting and watching, anxiously anticipating, the coming Kingdom of God through the Messiah. So the question left to be answered today is where are you in your faith walk? Are you staying just close enough to Jesus to be accounted as one of his followers but not too close as to have to suffer any hardships for it? Or are you willing to boldly follow Christ with every aspect of your life knowing full well that the reward far outweighs the risk? Is it time for you to move up from that back row in your spiritual walk?

Robert


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