The Parable of the Mistaken Identity
As an old smokestack locomotive pulled into town, a young boy spotted a man over at the street market selling his harvest wearing overalls and a white shirt with dusty boots and big straw hat. The boy meandered over and sat down and began to watch the old man. Again and again throughout the day as people would come to the man to buy produce, the old man would start talking to them about how God had blessed the harvest, how God had blessed his life, and how God could bless their life too.
A few days later, the boy saw the old man again, but this time the old man was dressed up in waders and holding a net as he leaned up against a large wooden post at the entrance to the fish market. The boy stood there and watched as people would walk up to the old man and ask him about fishing. The old man would always start off with a few tips, but before the people knew it he was off talking about the beauty of the open seas, how God created them, how God was magnificent and wondrous, and how we should all fearfully obey him.
A couple of weeks passed by, and the boy had gone with his family to the train’s next scheduled stop. This was a much bigger town, with a hospital right in the heart of it with a park across the street. As the boy was about to go into the park, a Doctor caught his eye. He stopped, and sat down on the curb, and just observed the doctor sitting on a bench in front of the hospital for a while. People would walk up to the doctor and talk to him; ask him questions. They would ask him about ailments that they had. The doctor would encourage them to visit their physician, but before they had the chance to move on their way, he would be talking to them about how Jesus Christ is the true healer, and how the solution to eternal pain and suffering is found in Christ’s love.
The little boy decided he would go confront this man. He walked up to the old man and said, “Hey I know you!” “Really” replied the old man, with a grin. “Who am I?” The boy paused. “Well, I don’t know. But I’ve seen you dressed up as a Farmer, and dressed up as a Fisherman, and now you are dressed up as a Doctor! So what are you?” The old man said, “I am a preacher!” The boy looked shocked. “I’ve been listening to you, and you sure do sound like a preacher, but you don’t look like one. Why do you dress up as a Farmer, a Fisherman, and a Doctor?” The old preacher man said with a grin, “Because nobody wants to talk to a preacher.”
“Isn’t that being dishonest?” interrogated the young boy. “Not at all. It is simply using people’s prejudice to their own advantage.” “What do you mean?” asked the young boy. “Well, if I dressed like a preacher people would ‘judge’ me. They wouldn’t want to talk to me, and that’s not to their advantage because I can share with them the blessings of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I never tell people I AM a farmer, or fisherman, or doctor. They just assume that I am. They ‘judge’ me by what I wear, and they want to talk to me. They want to ask me questions. I use the opportunity not just to tell them what they want to hear, but to tell them what they need to know.”
“But why a farmer, a fisherman, and a doctor?” quizzed the young lad. “I dress up as a farmer because Jesus said, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’ (Mt. 9:37-38) I dress up as a fisherman because Jesus said, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ (Mark 1:17) And I don’t dress up as a doctor, but as a physician’s assistant! Because Jesus is the Great Physician (Luke 4:23), and I want to be His worker, His helper, His servant, His assistant in seeking and saving those that are lost.” (Luke 19:10) With that the boy left satisfied… deciding that he too one day… wanted to be a preacher man.
The world is full of prejudice. The hearts of men are full of judgments, and I have seen it play out time and time again in my life. People treat me one way, and then the second they find out I am a preacher their whole demeanor changes. But it doesn’t even just happen as a preacher. Sometimes it is when people have found out I attend the “Church of Christ”, and other times it is just when they find out I am a Christian. So what am I to do; because people will act different around me, or change their attitude towards me? Am I to stop being a preacher? Am I to stop being a Christian? Am I to be ashamed? Am I to go into hiding? Quite the contrary!
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.” (Col. 4:5) It’s not about giving up, it’s about trying harder, working smarter. Regardless of how the world treats us, accepts us, judges us… the command of the Lord remains the same, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glori-fy your Father in heaven.” (Mat. 5:16) Is that what you are doing? Are you shining bright for the gospel, or is your light dimmed? Are you honored to be a Christian, and to let the world know it, or have you hidden your light under the peck-measure? (Mat. 5:15) I am determined by these verses that we should all seek to be preachers when we grow up; perhaps not in profession, but at the very least in the practicality of our daily living! We can all be farmers, we can all be fisherman, we can all be physician’s assistants. We all should be!
This is what the world needs. This is what the church needs. This is what our neighbors need. They don’t just need the gospel… they need someone with the heart and courage to bring it to them. (Rom. 10:15) Be that person! Are you that person? Are you that family member? Are you that friend? Are you that neighbor? Are you that loved one? Are you that Christian… that will take the gospel to the lost? Or have I mistaken your identity? Be strong and courageous! Keep working… keep seeking… and keep saving the lost.