by Sir Timothy Braun
“My father was a wandering Aramean…” ~ Dt. 26:5
In the book of Deuteronomy it describes how the people of Israel, once they had inherited the Promised Land, were to come “to the place the LORD your God will choose” (Dt. 26:2 ff.) and offer back to God their firstfruits, the first and best of what God had blessed them with. As they made their offering they were to recite a brief history beginning with Jacob, a wandering Aramean whom God renamed “Israel,” and following through the people of Israel’s slavery, God’s acts of deliverance, and so on. It was important to God that as his people they remember their own history in relation to Him.
That’s one of the things that I love about the Bible: it tells a story, our story. And the scriptures are always unflinchingly honest. Our story isn’t always a pretty one. It seems that, more often than not, the stories we have recorded are there not as a model telling us what to do so much as a model of what not to do. There are triumphs and there are failures. There are moments of glory and joy and there are moments of pain and devastation.
And here’s the thing: it’s all part of the story. To edit or to ignore certain parts of it is to rob the story of its truth. We cannot pick and choose which parts of the story we want to claim or which parts of the story we might want to reject. It’s all there and it’s all ours. We are God’s people. This is our story.
My father was a wandering Aramean.
And yet, for some reason, once we get past the book of Acts most Christians seem to lose sight of the story. But the story is still there and it’s still ours.
Much like the story of Israel our story as the Church has its high points and its low points. There are moments of joy and of sorrow. There are people we would like to praise and people we would like to vilify. But just as Israel couldn’t pick-and-choose their own history, neither can we as the Church. It’s all part of our story whether we like it or not.
Israel split between north and south.
The Church split between east and west.
Israel persecuted her own prophets.
The Church has persecuted those who sought to reform her.
It’s all a part of who we are. We cannot isolate ourselves from our own history. That doesn’t mean we love all parts of the story. It doesn’t mean that we condone or endorse all of Church history. Far from it! It simply means we own up to it, call it for what it is, and learn our lessons as we seek to live Christ-like lives in the here-and-now.
So as we walk through our Bearded Gospel History let’s keep this in mind. We’ll encounter Catholics & Orthodox, reformers and counter-reformers. There will be evangelicals and mainline-Protestants.
It’s inevitable that we encounter those we consider heroes as well as those we might be tempted to consider villains. They are all a part of our story. It doesn’t mean we agree with everything they ever said. We don’t condone or condemn them in any ‘official’ way.
Our goal is nothing more or less than to encounter men throughout history who have made significant contributions to our common story. And since this is Bearded Gospel History, our criteria are simple. We start with the Faith (could this person uphold the Apostle’s Creed?). Then we move on to the beard (did they sport proper facial hair?). And, really, that’s about it!
Yes, we’ll probably end up hearing from people who advanced ideas that we wrestle with. But remember, our father was a wandering [and bearded] Aramean … who wrestled with God Himself (Gen. 32:22-32)! Wrestling isn’t necessarily such a bad thing.
And so I encourage you: embrace the story. Embrace the beards. Embrace the Gospel.