Stanley Shipp was an original. Tall and thin with a bright twinkle in his eyes, Stanley loved life. And he loved people. I’m not sure he ever met a stranger. I embraced the few times I got to be with him for a few days. I watched him as he interacted with people. He told great stories and I hung on his every word.
One time he was with our church in San Angelo, TX. I had just begun youth ministry and had promised the church I would stay at least three years. They had suffered through three youth minister turnovers in the previous four years so I gave my word. Stanley was trying to entice me and a friend to join a church planting team to the northeast and explaining why.
“People will give money to missions before they will ever walk across the street and get to know their neighbors,” he said. My friend and I were quiet, letting the words sink in and secretly acknowledging the shoe fit us.
“People in our cities are hungry to know about God.” Stanley would get a tear in his eye when talking about lost people. He went on to tell about a time in St. Louis he and some younger people from the church went out to a restaurant together. They were talking about life and because Jesus was a big part of Stanley’s life you’d always wind up talking about him too.
A couple sitting in the adjoining booth leaned around and asked, “Are you talking about Jesus?” Stanley said, “Yes, we are.” The young woman said, “Would you mind if we joined you?”
Stanley pulled up two chairs and invited them over. Introductions ensued and small talk began. Finally, the young man said, “I want to ask you what does Jesus say about two people living together who are not married?”
Stanley paused the story. He looked at us and asked with a wry smile, “What would you have said?” Neither one of us wanted to answer because we knew whatever we said would not be as good as what Stanley said to the couple. So we pulled out a trick we learned from Jesus and threw a question back at him. “Hmmm…we need to think about that for a moment. What did you say?”
He said, “I looked at them and did what you just did…I asked them a question. I asked, ‘Well, let me ask you first: who is Jesus to you?’”
“Who is Jesus to us?” they responded. “Why are you asking us that?”
“Because,” Stanley said, “who he is to you makes a big difference in whether or not it matters what he says about two people living together before they are married.”
“Who is Jesus to you?” How would you answer that? Have you answered that? There is no shortage of answers people give. George Barna asked Americans “Who is Jesus?” and got these answers:
- 92% believe Jesus was a real person.
- 56% believe Jesus was God. 26% say he was only a religious or spiritual leader like Mohommed or Buddha. 18% aren’t sure he was divine.
- 52% believe Jesus was human, like us, and committed sins while he was on earth.
- 6 out of 10 say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus. But only 46% of Millennials have. And only 53% of those making over $100K per year have.
- And many adults believe they will go to heaven because of their good works, not their relationship with Jesus.
Who is Jesus to you? It is the most important question you can answer. How you answer it makes a world of difference in whether what he said makes a difference in your life or not.