Faithful Reepicheep readers no doubt noticed the lull in posts from last Friday through Monday. I was in Western New York (Buffalo area) to attend my 20th High School Reunion festivities. We had events Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
I graduated from Grand Island High School in 1989 along with approximately 300 other graduates. My good friend and fellow pastor at Redeemer, Nathan Currey, also graduated from GIHS that year. Religiously, Grand Island is predominantly Roman Catholic. The vast majority of my friends, including myself, were raised Catholic, most would still consider themselves RC. A few of us left Romanism for various evangelical churches, but not many. Out of my class of 300, only Nathan and I are ordained ministers of any stripe, something I find interesting.
My last couple of years of High School were a bit complex for me. Christ gripped my heart when I was a young teen but I struggled to live out my faith until my junior year of high school. The main catalyst in helping me grow in Christ and start to be less of a hypocrite was the accountability of a bible-preaching church, a caring youth pastor, and friends who were of like mind and pursuit. Still, I struggled with any kind of consistency in those years of high school. I think friends knew I was "religious", but I don't know if they could tell much more. I dropped out of the party scene by the time I was a junior, friends noticed and acted a touch differently toward me, but by no means did they ditch me. People generally didn't move from Grand Island so most of my buddies were long-time friends. Most would say they were "Christians" of the Roman Catholic variety, however they would balk at the notion of fundamentalist Christianity that seemed to sport a "holier than thou" attitude with all sorts of bible-talk. I might have carried myself like that a little as the church I attended identified itself with fundamentalism and struggled with some inexplicable legalisms (e.g. they were pretty outspoken on the purported sin of alcohol...something relatively hard to understand among the people I knew...and to me still). I was never completely comfortable with the idea of being a fundamentalist, but I wasn't comfortable with being Roman Catholic either. Eventually, as you know, I settled in to the Reformed tradition because I think it has the best biblical balance of life and doctrine.
All this to say I had only maintained contact with a few of my high school friends these 20 years since graduation. Many of my fellow graduates stayed in the Western New York area, from time to time I would hear about their lives and whereabouts. The ones who left WNY generally went further East, some south, but none to the Midwest that I am aware of. I figured some heard I was a pastor and probably laughed a bit. I don't blame them, I still laugh myself.
Then, about six months ago I got on Facebook. It seemed like a huge wave of re-connections followed as I found myself back in contact with a hundred or more of my former GIHS classmates. At the same time reunion plans were being announced dozens of my former classmates were re-uniting on Facebook. I started to have meaningful interaction with a dozen or more old friends. I discovered many friends had gone through or were presently going through very difficult times related to their health, marriage, or vocation. I found that quite a few of my old friends were now trusting Christ and growing spiritually. I learned that quite a few more seemed to be searching spiritually, looking for truth. I have sent several copies of Tim Keller's excellent book, A Reason for God, to dear GIHS friends of mine.
Sometimes Christians will suggest you can't have genuine friendships with people who are not also Christians. I agree that Christian friendships go deeper than all others because of our mutual, eternal union with Christ, however, I have some very faithful friends who would say they do not trust Christ as I do (or as Scripture requires). This time I have just spent with many of them has grown my love for each of them and my desire for them to be in a right relationship with God through Christ. At each of the events this past weekend I tried to make contact with everyone I knew just to learn of what was happening in their life and to know how to pray for them. I don't know what God's will is for my old classmates, but I do earnestly desire that He would give me some opportunities to be a vessel of His grace to them and see many come to faith in Christ. I think I get what Paul means when he said-
Romans 9:1-3 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.