The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."
October 7, 2003
Wanted: True Beleivers
The big burly guy next to me had tears streaming down his face as the last anthem played. In a voice choked with emotion, he leaned over and said, "Is this the first time you've been here?"
"No," I gently replied. "I've been here before."
"How many times?" he said.
"Do you mean this year, or total?"
"This year. And total."
"Eight so far this year. And about 30 total, over the past 25 years," I said.
"I never knew," he said, shaking his head. There was something very sad in his voice, something behind his words. It almost sounded like repentance.
"I never knew," he sighed again. "My friend tried to tell me about this back in high school, but I wouldn't listen to him. Now I realize I've wasted the last 20 years of my life."
Seeing Bruce Springsteen live for the first time has that effect on people sometimes. I reached up and lightly put my hand on this big stranger's shoulder as the music swelled around us.
"It's OK," I said. "Because now you understand, and you've been here, and things will be different from now on. You can come back again!" To myself, I added, "and you're forgiven."
He nodded, still crying.
I'd witnessed a conversion to Springsteen fandom. And even though I was caught up in the passion of the concert, something else was now running through my head: why I haven't seen more people being converted to Christ—where the conversion really counts for something.
I make no apologies for my longtime love of all things Bruce. I've been to Asbury Park, I've got an autographed Born to Run album, and back in 1980 I was one of those people who would stand in line in the dark in the rain in Pottstown, Pa., at 3:30 a.m. for the chance to make it inside the Spectrum for a few shows.
I was at a Bruce concert the night John Lennon was shot. I met my husband 25 years ago because I was wearing an Asbury Park sweatshirt. Bruce is part of the glue that holds our marriage together. My teenage son is probably the only guy in his high school who knows all the words to "Thunder Road."
Yet, like most Bruce fans, I struggle to explain the phenomenon to others. It's the message in the songs. It's the heartfelt, joyful, masterful, charismatic performance. It's the sense of family around you in the crowd and onstage in the E Street Band, still intact after 30 years. It's the powerful way the music speaks to your life. It's Bruce's courage in taking an unpopular political stand. It's his concern for the homeless and the little guy. It's 60,000 people choking back the emotion, singing Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl" with him in a single voice, the last song on the last night at the Meadowlands.
And for me, it's the Christian undercurrent in so many of the songs, the references to God, to Scripture, to the need for faith, hope and love.
It's all these things and more. Still, "You really have to come and see him play," is all I usually manage to say to those who ask.
That's because most people actually don't want to know all that badly. They're curious, but content to stay the way they are, living life just the way they do now. They really don't want to try to understand; they're just wondering what's up with you. You seem like such a normal person otherwise.
So, "Come and see," I say. I know that once they've seen Bruce live in concert, chances are good they'll begin to understand. From there, who knows?
It occurs to me that Jesus said "Come and see" to John's two disciples, and that Come and see is the only message one of my pastor friends is ever willing to put on the sign in front of his churches.
When people come and see Jesus — take the time and make the effort to check him out — they might begin to understand. And if they begin to understand, they might start to feel convicted. And if that happens, well, at some point they might repent and say to themselves, "I never knew. I've wasted a good chunk of my life. I want to live differently now." The forgiveness will rush in, and the life will change.
We Christians have a job to do, I think.
What people need is for true believers already committed to Christ to come alongside them and try to explain their devotion to their Savior. Even if we can't put it into words, even if we are at a loss to describe what life with Jesus means to us or how our lives have been changed, we can surely say, "Come and see."
We may get taken up on our offer immediately. Or like that man's buddy from high school, it may be 20 years before our words produce fruit. But for we who know our Lord, it's part of our job to get the word out.
As much as I like Springsteen, that admiration doesn't even show up on the radar in comparison to my devotion to Jesus the Christ. That's why my experience at the concert has made me ask myself—if I can get myself all worked up over Bruce, how much more should I, a true believer in Christ, give myself over to helping people come to know Him?
May my—and your—experience of the glory of our King move us to enter the work of telling others about him.