"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’” Acts 26:28
When I was in high school I didn’t struggle to find what I wanted to do with my life. Many of my friends couldn’t land on a vocation or post-high school plan, but not me. I was sure of what I wanted: I wanted to be an entertainer! It’s all I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, so I decided that I would apply for colleges and universities with musical theatre and acting programs. Now, for those who don’t know, when you apply for an arts-based program in college, you don’t simply send in paperwork and transcripts. In addition to all of that, you have to audition to show what you are bringing to the table in the talent department. So, with my dream of becoming a big-time entertainer spring me on, I went to audition after audition in the spring of 2001.
All of the schools had multiple levels of auditions, and there was a cut after each level was finished. I usually made it past the first cut, and I had a high rate of success of making it past cut two as well. After that, I didn’t find much success. I would usually find myself heading home after the third layer of the audition, disappointed and a bit miffed. This was my basic pattern, with the exception of two schools, one of which was a top pick of mine: NYU. I made it through multiple cuts and had been able to talk with some of the folks who ran the program. I had high hopes of making it in, but, as an average-at-best high school student, I found myself at a disadvantage. In the end, my grades became the deciding factor that kept me out of NYU. I was extremely disappointed when I received the rejection letter, and I struggled with it for quite a while.
Now, many people tried to comfort me, and they usually did a pretty good job. There was one thing that was said to me, though, that did not comfort me at all. The basic sentiment was this: I should be really encouraged by the fact that I had made it right down to the wire before getting rejected. Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand what they were saying, but it didn’t hit home for me. You see, from my perspective, almost making it had the same result as getting cut in the first round: I didn’t go to NYU. I was reminded of a saying I heard a lot when I was growing up that goes, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
We all have had moments like this when we came close or almost made it. We all know what it’s like to come up just short of success, and we all know that it was still not enough. That near miss was still a miss. In Acts 26, Paul is told that he came close to success, but didn’t quite make it. He almost convinced Agrippa to believe in Jesus, but that isn't enough. Paul cannot be satisfied with anyone almost believing in Jesus, because it’s just the same as someone not believing in Jesus at all. Paul follows up Agrippa’s statement with a clear declaration that he isn’t satisfied with almost convincing him, but prayed that he and all of the people around him could become altogether Christian. Close was not good enough for Paul, and it shouldn’t be for us.
John Wesley argued in his sermon, The Almost Christian, that many of us who claim Christ are like Agrippa. We are almost devoted to following Jesus, but we stop short of full devotion. Over the next four weeks, we will be diving into Wesley’s work and striving to understand how to get past our Almost Christian status and try to become the disciples that God is calling us to be. This week, I am honored to share the first message of this series and I hope that you will be able to join us as we begin this important conversation as a community. Blessings!