Listen, Learn, Love

In the course of my growing work in evangelism I’ve had the opportunity to meet some interesting people. Perhaps none more so than 98 year old local B’ham Blues legend Henry “Gip” Gipson. Gip’s Place, at his home in Bessemer, is one of the only remaining authentic Juke Joints in the country, maybe even the last true one. I’ve actually become pretty good friends with Gip and he’s a regular at my Monday night group discussion of spiritual/Biblical topics targeting unbelievers. Although Gip gets confused on things and very easily gets off track, he loves to talk about the Bible and Jesus. He obviously has been taught a lot of Bible truths over the years and I do believe Gip is a Christian. But again, he’s almost impossible to follow and comprehend when he shares his thoughts in our discussion group.

Gip’s not able to drive but comes with a friend who essentially functions as his handler. Billy (not his real name) isn’t his agent and isn’t involved in Gip’s finances or business, but really is just a friend who cares for him and helps in any way he can, really sort of Gip’s handler. Billy wouldn’t say he’s an unbeliever but he is. Although he believes in Jesus he doesn’t know or profess Jesus in a saving way. But I learned something from Billy the other night, something simple yet profound.

Perhaps you’re aware that Gip has been in the local news the past several days. Two of Gip’s nice guitars are missing and presumably stolen. For a Blues musician, his guitar is almost an extension of his body, it’s that thing that allows him to express his heart and soul in music. And Gip’s two favorite guitars are gone! At the end of every Monday night’s discussion I take a minute or two and ask folks if I can pray for them. Gip wasn’t able to attend this past week, but someone suggested we pray that his guitars get returned. I thought that was a beautiful request and immediately turned to look at Billy. Billy’s response told me a lot about him … he said, “I don’t care about those **** guitars, let’s pray for Gip’s health.” Though not a believer, I saw and heard in him the image of God shining through.

I learned something about my own heart in that moment, too. I tend to be one of those evangelical Christians who love the idea of supporting causes, movements, initiatives, projects, etc. but not necessarily loving the person or people behind those things. It’s easy to love the Pro-life movement, but hard to love a young woman struggling with an unplanned pregnancy. It’s easy to be excited about poverty alleviation, but hard to love the homeless man on the street corner. It’s easy to embrace the idea of racial reconciliation, but hard to actually befriend your neighbor of a different race. It’s easy to champion second amendment rights, but hard to come alongside the victim of a senseless shooting. It’s easy to profess that Christians should love one another, but it’s hard to love the man in the church who just failed in his responsibility. It’s easy to care about the cause of getting Gip’s guitars back to him, but it’s hard to actually love Gip.

As we grow in our faith, let’s make sure we do a couple of things. First, let’s listen and learn even from the unbelievers around us. They often have profound insight into things that challenge and teach us. Secondly, let us enter into the mess of relationships and not just settle for causes, ideas, concepts, or movements. By the way, as I prayed for Gip’s health, I also prayed for him to get his guitar’s back! The causes aren’t bad, but let’s not forget the people in them.