I was so shocked to see the wise old man having an ice cream cone in uptown Westerville, Ohio. For some reason, I thought he was fairly local in the Texarkana, Dallas, Mena areas, but there he was, sitting on Amish furniture at an establishment across the street from a popular ice cream place. I see him around every holiday.
“Hello, sir,” I said, as I approached him and sat on a wrought iron bench beside him. “Oh, hi, Dan,” he replied nonchalantly.
“What are you doing in Ohio?” I wanted to know.
“Oh, I’m pretty much everywhere,” he said, savoring a jaw-full of blueberry ice cream. “How’s it going with your mission up here, Dan?”
I poured out the positives and negatives of my current work and he listened with a benign grin, constantly attending to his treat. At the end of my monologue, he said some things I can barely remember but will never forget. At first his response was inexplicable, but eventually a deep understanding took hold. This is more or less what he said:
“Guilt is a savage beast, managed only by the great accuser. Guilt is always the wrong motivation for any enterprise. Like the deceptiveness of alcohol, you know. One drink makes you feel good, so you think two will make you feel better still and a third will elate. However, you find that the more you drink, the less the kick and down you go to a counterfeit joy which really is depression in disguise. What I’m telling you is that actions motivated by guilt result in more guilt. So, the thing to do is educate your conscience by understanding grace, you know, unmerited favor. Guilt makes you work for a peace that never comes. Grace gives you peace that work can never bring.”
“Sir, you’ve given me a lot to digest this evening.”
“Just digest that puny little cup of ice cream you got, Dan, and what I said will grow on you.”
“Do you think I’m motivated by guilt from what I said about my mission here?”
“Well, Dan, is anything within you accusatory these days?”
I avoided his question by asking another, one that’s been on my mind: “Sir, it seems that our representatives in high places are out of touch with their constituents. What can we do to make them understand?”
“They are not out of touch with ALL of their constituents. A pretty good hunk of humanity sees eye to eye with those who seek radical readjustment of American life. It’s a worldview thing, Dan. The Christian worldview, such as the one you hold, says God made us and put us in charge, made us stewards of all aspects of earthly life. We are responsible to him to love and nurture his creation and hold fellow human beings in high regard. Those who do not hold the Christian worldview often think of people as really smart animals whose responsibility is to dominate the world. People who do not hold the Christian worldview should feel guilty but don’t and those who are truly Christian shouldn’t feel guilty but do.
Daniel G. Ford