why would god choose a rascal like me
Why did I become a Christian? Actually, the question should be: Why did God choose me?
My first experience in a church didn’t go down too well. I was about 11 years old and my eldest sister, who had come to know the Lord, asked me to join her in church. It was a hot Sunday afternoon and most churches did not have air-conditioning then; so you can imagine how uncomfortable and humid it was. We took our seats in one of the wooden pews and we waited for the service to begin. Shortly after that, one gentleman went up to the pulpit, said something and I remember standing up together with the rest of the congregation to sing and then sitting down at the end of the hymn. The next thing that I could recall of that first Sunday service was my sister nudging me to stand up for the closing hymn – I had slept through the whole service! As you might have guessed, I wasn’t in a hurry to go back to the church and I didn’t do so until about a year later.
Sometime in that year after my first afternoon nap in the church, one of the members in my sister’s church, Donald, called me. He remembered me and told me that the church was starting a new program for youths my age. It was called a Methodist Youth Fellowship meeting and I should join them. He promised that it would be fun. With the memory of my first Sunday service still fresh in my mind, I declined. However, Donald was not to be put off so easily. For the next few months, he would call me frequently to invite me to join the program. His persistence wore me down. It came to a stage when I actually got quite irritated with his persistent calling. To get him off my back, I bargained with him that if I were to attend the meeting this one time, would he stop calling me again? He agreed and I turned up on a Saturday afternoon to find a number of youths in a school classroom chatting away. Well at first glance, this certainly looked more interesting than the Sunday service, I thought to myself.
The program was definitely more fun as we sang catchy choruses, played some games and I got to make some new friends. All of them seemed friendly and some of the girls looked cute. After the meeting, Donald introduced me to one of the youth leaders by the name of Patrick and told me that Patrick had something to share with me. We sat down at a quiet corner and Patrick started to share the gospel with me. I remembered he took a piece of paper from an exercise book and started to fold it. He then started drawing and talked about how man was separated from God because of sin and how God sent Jesus Christ to bridge the chasm. What was he talking about? At the end of his sharing, he asked whether I would like to receive Jesus Christ into my life. I said ‘Yes’.
Why I said ‘Yes’ at that point I did not know. Why would I need God anyway? I wasn’t sick. Although my family was not terribly well off, we weren’t exactly poor and I had enough spending money for a boy my age. I was doing rather well in school and wasn’t looking for a ‘higher being’ to help me pass my school examinations. I wasn’t having any problems at home as I have always considered my family to be quite a happy one. In short, I wasn’t looking for God but I said ‘yes’ when Patrick asked me if I wanted to invite Jesus Christ into my life.
Having grown up in a rather rough neighbourhood near Geylang, I learnt to be quite ‘colourful’ in my language. I had a foul mouth and was quite free with the use of expletives. In fact, I thought I was quite good at it and did not think that there was anything wrong as most of my neighbours also talked rough like me. So whether in school or playing with friends near my home, I would trade abusive insults and also swore readily at classmates and neighbourhood friends.
On Monday when I went back to school, after receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour on the Saturday before, I realized something was different. Something has changed. I found myself no longer using abusive language in my conversations like before. My friends had noticed it as well. In fact, I no longer had the urge to use any of those expletives at all. I thought to myself ‘What did I do on Saturday that brought about this change in me? Who is this God whom I have received into my life who has caused this change without me asking or doing anything about it?’ At that point in my life I resolved to know this God who has done this marvellous work in me. From having a foul mouth spewing abusive words I had cleansed lips offering praises and thanksgiving to God. And it has been a wonderful journey of discovery and knowing God more intimately ever since.
And yes, Donald did not have to call me anymore since that Saturday. I willingly went to church to worship God.
So why did I become a Christian?
I should say it is God who chose me and made me His own. This is the love of God, looking out for me even when I wasn’t seeking. This is the grace of God, reaching out to me even when I was dead in sin and didn’t even know it. This is the God whom I worship.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2: 4-8)
Author: Michael Ooi (Michael worships at the Saturday Service together with his wife Siew Hong. They have 3 lovely daughters, Sandra, Samantha & Sylvia.)
First published in The Courier, January 2011.