One of my favorite musicians of all time is Rich Mullins. He had a way with words that drove many people to either frustration or awe. The man who penned the song “Awesome God” which has inspired and touched many, also penned the song “Jacob and Two Women” which has left many a person baffled and asking why he even wrote it.
Several years ago, I found a book written about Rich’s life by a man who knew him fairly well. It is written as a “devotional biography,” which means that it is a portrait of Rich’s life intended to spur the reader toward a closer walk with God. In this respect, the book is spot on the mark. I have read this book a couple of times and spent some time skimming back through it the past week. The challenges and insights in this book are oftentimes profound and simple at the same time. In an era where Christian entertianment and media have sometimes been shallow and questionable, it is refreshing to see a picture of a man who never really got caught up in the whole fame and wealth and popularity game.
This book has been challenging to me on so many levels. It has helped me to have a better picture of the man behind the music that I enjoyed so much. The quotes from Rich in this book are amazing in their candor and insightful as well. One of my favorites is a story in the chapter discussing the love of God:
I remember one time Beaker and I were hikin on the Appalachian Trail, and he met some friends of his, so I walked into town. It was about a five-mile walk from the campsite down the trail. . . , down into tow. And when I got there I went into a restaurant and I was having a steak, and this guy started talking to me and we had this great conversation. We were having a good time, and he said, “Hey look, it’s dark and it’s five miles up the road to your campground. Why don’t I drive you up there?”
And I said, “Hey, great!”
And so we got in his car, and just as we pulled out from the under the last light in that town, the guy said, “You know what, I should probably tell you that I’m gay.”
And I said, “Oh! I should probably tell you that I am a Christian.”
And he said, “Well, if you want out of the car. . . .”
I said, “Why?”
And he said, “Well, I’m gay and you’re a Christian.”
I said, “It’s still five miles and it’s still dark.”
Then he said, “I thought Christians hated gays.”
I said, “That’s funny, I thought Christians were supposed to love. I thought that was our first command.”
He said, “Well, I thought God hated gays.”
And I said, “That’s really funny, because I thought God was love.”
And then he asked me the big one. He said, “Do you think I will go to hell for being a gay?”
Well, I am a good Hoosier, and I puckered up to say, “Yes, of course you’ll go to hell for being gay.” I got ready to say that, but when I opened my mouth it came out, “No, of course you won’t go to hell for being gay.” And I thought to myself, Oh my God, I’ve only been in New Hampshire for one week and I’ve already turned into a liberal! What am I going to tell this guy now?”
Then I said to him, “No, you won’t go to hell for being gay, any more than I would go to hell for being a liar. Nobody goes to hell because of what they do. We go to hell because we reject the grace that God so longs to give regardless of what we do.”
(excerpt from pages 57-58)
If you have never read any of Rich Mullins old columns for Release magazine or listened to anything other than his music, you might be in for a shock or two along the way. But you will be blessed by the life of a “ragamuffin” who just sought to follow Jesus and live for Him alone. I was blessed to meet Rich a couple of years before he died after a concert in our hometown area. He was using the proceeds from his tour to pay for printing and distribution of a New Testament for use on the Native American reservations called the “Jesus Way.” He had actually taken time away from furthering his music career to go to college and get a music degree in order to go live on a reservation and teach music. The man I met, comes through in this book. He was humble and unpretentious and actually lived his life as an “arrow pointing to heaven.” We got his autograph that night, and he simply signed the words, “Be God’s.” Simple words with a profound meaning that I am seeking to live day by day and step by step.