Middle Men

Omar Aleman, Aleman and Associates

What is wrong with being adventurous at the age of 23? Throw caution to the wind, I said, and so I did. And in doing so, the breadth of my life choices was diminished. I felt invigorated that February morning waking up in a downtown Chicago hotel after experiencing a snowfall for the first time in my life as we landed in Minneapolis the previous evening. The meeting was planned at a site five blocks away from my accommodations, so a choice had to be made; take a taxi… or be brave and walk to the location with garments not suitable for the circumstances. The next thirty minutes are permanently etched in my memory and occasionally become the subject of nightmares.

Being a “middlemen”

middlemenIn the process of walking south from the corner of State and Lake down to Adams Street, all of my expectations and forecasts were shattered. My foolish assumption was to expect the fluffy stuff to come down from the skies; instead, here I was walking against a “wind turbine” blowing horizontal ice pellets that came at me from the side of buildings. By the time I arrived at my destination, I was a total mess.  Cowering near a radiator heater with tears and nasal mucus running down my face, a security guard came over to check on me and was surprised (and most assuredly disappointed) that he was dealing with a federal agent meeting the U.S. Attorney to discuss a major drug investigation. And it was there and then that the decision was made. “Never” will I live in a cold environment despite the negative career connotations; it was simply not worth it, and “beneath” the expectations of a card carrying West Indies native like myself.

There are consequences when one chooses convenience over opportunities, much like, when as citizens, we side with safety over individual freedoms. From a personal and professional view, although constricting, choosing coziness over access has its advantages and may well fall within the purview of an appropriate decision. Interestingly, staying away from the edges, acquiring permanent neutrality, and having an “open mind” are viewed as wisdom in today’s polarized society, particularly when it comes to the Christian walk. As a result, the church and its followers seem to be evolving into a much more compliant crowd despite the diatribe from the liberal press to the contrary. 


Paul’s evangelistic approach

Some of my brothers and sisters in the faith adhere to Paul’s evangelistic approach as underscored in his first epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 9, verses 19-23. Here the apostle professes that “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” These believers today observe advanced tolerance while sharing the Gospel with grace, in hope of attracting an apathetic and sometimes belligerent crowd, a spiritual give and take in announcing and offering God’s Word; Christian yeoman’s work indeed. 

Ironically, Paul of Tarsus was not “a man for all seasons” as his “middle of the road” stance may suggest. This was a no-nonsense individual who “rode the rails” and followed his beliefs to the ultimate consequences. He was a Greek speaking Pharisee who studied under the famous doctor of Jewish Law Gamaliel, was a descendant of the tribe of Benjamin and a Roman citizen, and was considered a “Jew’s Jew.” He fanatically chased down the emerging Christian church with vim and vigor, until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and told him “to do a 180.” Thus Paul became the Apostle of the Gentiles, totally uncompromising in the belief that salvation only occurs through the acceptance of Christ as the Savior, and thereby became the first “church planter.” Paul was daily involved in a tug-of-war; presenting his deep rooted spiritual beliefs to a disbelieving world at their level while not reneging on the Gospel truth. 


Spiritual accommodation

In my estimation, Paul was an accomplished accommodator who was an expert at utilizing his generosity and goodwill to create bonds with the many strangers he met daily yet was staunchly uncompromising in his mission. Can you identify with that definition? Does your church follow a similar path?  I accepted Christ at a Presbyterian Church but noticed weeks later that I felt like “a fish out of water” there. They were nice, expressive, kind and friendly enough, but at the end of the day they were “the frozen chosen.” I, on the other hand, was me… more burnt than frozen. 

The ensuing conversation with the pastor revealed that he was delighted with my presence there, for my quirky, atypical and simply odd behavior, coupled with my poignant questions, were “opening up the church.” And then I had to admit that I enjoyed being around “different folks” who loved God and His Word. It did not strike a chord at the time, but what occurred there was a classic case of spiritual accommodation. Marked differences coupled with mutual respect and the common theme of salvation can often lead to extraordinary Christian relationships. I am reminded of one of my favorite verses, Revelation 3:16, in which the angel of the church of Laodicea writes, “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold; I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Can you identify with that definition? What path does your church choose?

What we are asking the church today is to become better at accommodating while standing in the gap and adhering to the original Word of God. And it starts with me… I am the church. Interestingly, I have visited Chicago on numerous occasions since that terrible occurrence of more than 50 years ago. The winters there are still atrocious, but now I am more experienced, older, a little wiser, dress warmer and use Uber judiciously. The compromise holds steadfast; I don’t plan to live there. But it is no longer unpleasant; I learned to accommodate.

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Read more articles by Omar Aleman at: goodnewsfl.org/author/omar-aleman/

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