I nearly fell over when I saw his name. HIPAA privacy laws prevent me from sharing that name with you, dear reader, so let’s just call him John. But I will tell you this: When I launched my writing career at a little Milwaukee PR agency in the mid-1970s, this very John had been a senior VP for our largest client – an exceptionally kind man who was greatly respected, admired and even loved by the low-level staffers I worked with.
After the sing-along was over, I introduced myself, outlining my connection with his long-ago employer. It was no surprise that he didn’t remember me. But he was mighty pleased to make my acquaintance that day, and to make plans for attending the Christmas edition of the Christian Music Hour the following Sunday.
John and I chatted quite a while that day. I discovered that he was a life-long church-goer who had never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said he was pinning his heavenly hopes on the fact that he’d been baptized as an infant, and that he was a deacon in his church. He was quite surprised to learn that, according to the Bible, we are saved for all eternity not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Jesus did on the cross. Surprised, and the more he thought about it, delighted, because it simply made sense to him.
That Sunday, our Christian Music Hour repertoire consisted of traditional Christmas carols, with one notable exception: I’d included a beautiful '90s song called "A Strange Way To Save the World." The residents of that era usually didn’t like contemporary songs, but this one was pretty enough to earn smiles from a number of the participants, including my new friend John. He said that enjoyed the entire hour immensely, in fact, and kept his song book so he could sing his favorites again in the privacy of his room.
John quickly became my favorite resident. Having been introduced to the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was hungry to learn more about the Bible. I brought him a copy of the first version I’d read cover to cover – the Life Application Study Bible in the easy-to-read New Living Translation – and found him immersed in it every time I visited, and eager to talk about what he’d been discovering.
In early February, his family moved John into an assisted-living facility a half-hour from my home. I decided to steal a few more hours each week from my freelance writing business in order to visit him there, and our fellowship continued for several more weeks.
But then one Wednesday afternoon, I received a call from his daughter. John had died unexpectedly of a massive stroke that morning, she said, so I needn’t make the trip to visit him that week.
I was sad to lose my friend, of course, but rejoiced that John had repented and trusted in Jesus Christ; I would be seeing him again one happy day. In the meantime, I attended his funeral, held in the church where he’d been a deacon for so many years, but had never heard the gospel preached.
Apparently nothing had changed. Sandwiched between by-the-book opening and closing prayers, the service was dedicated to what a fine, upstanding man John had been, how well he’d taken care of his family, what a great success he’d been as a businessman and friend to all. Not a word about the Jesus he’d come to know and love in recent weeks. Not a word about the everlasting life he was already enjoying.
But in spite of the thoroughly secular service, John had managed to leave a clear message behind. There, on the back of the funeral bulletin, were some unexpected words:
"This is a song that John heard recently and loved. He asked us to share it with you at his funeral."
What followed were the lyrics to "A Strange Way To Save the World." You'll find them in this video, if you'd care to find out why John was so moved by them. (If you’re reading this via email, please click on the headline above to be taken to the page with the audio link.)
It’s my prayer that this lovely song, which so moved John 13 years ago this month, will have a similarly soul-stirring impact on a 2018 attendee, with similarly soul-saving results.