Anyone remember PACE 86? Hard to believe it was 35 years ago. I am old. But I digress.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, PACE was a national youth conference where thousands of teenagers from the Wesleyan Church gathered together. The most memorable part of that whole week for me was a powerful sermon by a great orator named John Ott (who I met at his church last year — pretty cool). But again I digress.
I can still hear his booming voice across the auditorium and the illustrations he told. This was one of my favorites:
Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military generals who ever lived, conquered almost the entire known world with his vast army. One night during a campaign, he couldn't sleep and left his tent to walk around the campgrounds.
As he was walking he came across a soldier asleep on guard duty - a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death; the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it.
The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him.
Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. "Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier.
"Yes, sir," the soldier responded in a quivering voice.
"Soldier, what's your name?" demanded Alexander the Great.
Alexander the Great repeated the question: "What is your name?”
"My name is Alexander, sir," the soldier repeated.
A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, "What is your name?”
A third time the soldier meekly said, "My name is Alexander, sir.”
Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. "Soldier," he said with intensity, "either change your conduct or change your name”
While scholars question whether this really happened, it is a powerful illustration. Why, you may ask?
Because the word Christ is in the name “Christian” and we have a serious obligation in taking on that new name. Ou conduct should match that of Christ’s.
I have had many occasions over my lifetime to want to scream these words to people who I see doing and saying things under the name “Christian.”
“Change your conduct, or change your name.”
Because their conduct is nothing like the way Jesus lived his life.
Sure, you can go back and find a couple examples of where Jesus was angry (but he was usually angry at religious people, not at others). But his overall approach to life was very different than a lot of people who carry his name today.
He loved people.
He hung out with folks that were rejected by society.
He did everything to include as oppose to exclude.
He was all about extending compassion to everyone no matter what.
The sad thing is that there are people who want to debate this or to say, “yes, but….” And that breaks my heart.
We carry a precious name with us when refer to ourselves as Christians and we need to live up to that ….
We need to change our conduct, or change our name.
“Lay down, lay down your old chains, come now and take up your new name.”