Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)
My grandfather would have turned 93 on November 8. For me, he remains the greatest exemplar of practical godliness, of practical Christianity, that I have ever known. This man was not a theologian. The modest collection of books he left behind, which seemed formidable to me as a child, included only a few theological volumes that are of interest to me now as (if you will forgive this expression) an amateur student of theology. Although in his later years we had a number of delightful discussions that touched on matters of faith, life, and the church, I’m not really sure what he thought about some of the theological minutiae with which I sometimes concern myself. A lifelong Southern Baptist (and, amazingly by today’s standards, a lifelong member of the same local church), I doubt he would have called himself a Calvinist, though he did enjoy watching and hearing D. James Kennedy preach on television and once said to me “You know, he’s a Presbyterian, but he believes what I believe.”
No, Chester Robinson was not a theologian, but he loved the Lord Jesus Christ. How do I know that? But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18) This was a man that never had tremendous amounts of money, yet he always gave liberally to his church and to those in need. He planted a vegetable garden every year until he died (though Mom and Dad eventually did most of the work), and was always taking bags of food to people in the community. Sometimes he and my grandmother would pick up children from nearby houses on Sunday morning and take them to church with them. He served (as do my Dad and me) as a Gideon for many years, seeking the spread of God’s Word. When my grandmother took ill with dementia he visited her in the nursing home almost every day for nearly seven years, always with a smile and an apple or ice cream or some other treat, always happy to see his bride, even when she said little and seemed to be unaware of what was happening. Before she took ill they prayed and read Scripture together every night, a habit that he continued alone until he joined her in our Lord’s presence. As a child I noticed this, and assumed it was normal. As an adult, I am moved to tears to think of how my grandparents loved the Lord Jesus, and what a blessing it was that they prayed for me so diligently and faithfully.
Theology is important. I’m a Calvinist and a Presbyterian because I believe Scripture demands that I be so. Sometimes, though, Reformed folks have a way of arguing in blogs and magazines and online forums about various theological shibboleths while forgetting that Christ demanded that ours be a faith that results in action—actions like persistent prayer, and simple works of charity and mercy:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-36)
Thanks, “Paw,” for teaching and for showing us what it is to be a Christian. I look forward to seeing you again one day. I love you.