Begging Evangelically

Running errands or coming from a job, I come across random types of people at exit ramps asking for money. I rarely carry cash, but if I have something on me and I feel inclined to, I’ll give a buck or a granola bar.

The homeless are mostly known for their cardboard signs. Sometimes a lot of thought goes into these instruments of communication. If we don’t look at the person, we at least look at the words.

Sometimes the sign proclaims the person is a retired veteran. Sometimes it makes a clever or funny statement like, “I’m honestly just looking for weed money.” But usually they’re simply soliciting cash with a closing “God bless.”

One week I was caught at an exit ramp red light with a gentleman standing right there with a cardboard sign. I had no cash or food on me. My window was open. I’m not one to timidly stare straight ahead, so I smiled and nodded a hello.

He returned the smile and nod and asked me if I can answer the sign.

It said, “Can you say that Christ knows you?” Smaller, the text concluded, “Anything helps. God bless.”

“Which Christ?” I replied.

Of course, this probably confused him, so I left it open for him to ask what do I mean.

Christian scholars (and even atheists) would know what I mean. Each of the four biblical gospels paint a different characteristic of Jesus, some even at odds theologically and behaviorally with each other. Additionally, the Jesus that Paul had supposedly met (before the gospels were written) was a very different Jesus than even portrayed in either of the gospels. The Jesuses in extra-biblical stories are even yet even more different types of people.

So, when I asked “Which Christ?” I can even be referring to any being other than Jesus that claimed to be the “Messiah” (in Hebrew) or “Annointed One” (in Greek). But I could also be referring to any crazy, modern-day cult-leader calling themselves “Christ” or I could be referring to any self-proclaimed man-deity that existed before Jesus was born.

“Which Christ?” Matthew’s Christ? Mark’s Christ? Luke’s Christ? Paul’s Christ? Thomas’s Christ? David Koresh the Christ? Krishna the Christ? Zoroaster the Christ? You see what I mean?

The man clearly wasn’t prepared for this type of question. But I used to be a Christian. I used to be religious. He expected one of two things to have happened: either I say, “Yes, I know Jesus Christ” or I say, “Who is Christ? Introduce me.”

Which Christ?

He started to look shifty. “You didn’t answer the question: Can you answer the sign?” he again asked me.

I said it wasn’t clear. Which Christ? He shook his head, saying I wasn’t answering the question.

He looked a little mad and started to stare off ahead of me. A line of cars were forming behind me and I was wasting his time.

No, he was wasting mine. I was minding my own business and he asked me a question, so I wasn’t going to let him off the hook.

He just stared ahead at the other cars, seeming to wish that one of the cars would offer him money, so he can leave his post—and this conversation—for something simpler.

Finally the light turned green and I started to pull ahead, wishing him to have a good day, but he ignored me.

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