I HAVE A COLLEGE FRIEND named Caleb.
His parents, both college professors, divorced when Caleb was only two years old. They each announced they were gay. Caleb’s mother fell in love with a woman at work. Caleb’s father fell in love with a man at work.
Caleb grew up going to gay pride parades and rallies. When he was nine, he was marching in a pride parade in Kansas City with his mom and her partner, Vera, when he saw a man throw a cup of urine on Vera.
Caleb, stunned, asked his mom, “Why would that man do that?” His mother told him, “Because he’s a Christian, and Christians hate people.”
That was how Caleb was introduced to Christianity and, unfortunately, it wasn’t the last negative experience he had with angry and self-righteous Christians.
When Caleb was sixteen, two buddies invited him to a Bible study. Caleb was excited. He despised Christians and thought this was his chance to finally let them know. The person leading that Bible study was Joe Weece. I know Joe. He is a man who lives out the one at a time way of Jesus.
It didn’t take long for Caleb to become disruptive in that Bible study. He was mean-spirited. He tried to disprove everything Joe said. He did everything he could to pick a fight, but Joe was always gracious to him.
Caleb’s two friends didn’t get mad or defensive either. In fact, they consistently returned his anger with kindness.
Caleb was surprised and, over time, grew to really like and respect the guys in that group. He wondered if maybe he had met the one odd group of Christians who were misrepresenting the hate-filled Christianity Jesus intended and Caleb had experienced. He decided to find out by going to the source.
He started reading the Bible and eventually got to the story in John 8 where a woman caught in the act of adultery is thrown at Jesus’s feet by men who wanted him to condemn her so they could stone her to death.
The Rest of Caleb’s Story
My friend Caleb went to a Bible study to return some of the hate he had experienced from Christians at the gay pride parades. But the Christians he met in that Bible study gave him a very different impression of Jesus.
Caleb started reading the Bible, and everything changed for him when he read John 8. He saw how Jesus chose compassion when confronted with a woman caught in sin and a crowd who wanted to condemn her. This was the real Jesus, not the picture the angry, screaming Christians had given him at the rallies.
Caleb put his faith in and surrendered his entire life to Jesus.
He was sixteen.
His mother disowned him. His father asked him to move out.
He moved in with Joe, the guy who led the Bible study he had been attending.
A couple years later, Caleb went to seminary, where he and I became friends. That was back in the 1990s. Check this out: a few years ago, Caleb baptized his mother and father, who had both put their faith in Jesus.
How did that happen?
They learned through the people they met at the church Caleb pastored that not all Christians are like the prigs they’d been exposed to. They met Christians who chose compassion instead of condemnation. They met the real, loving Jesus. The Jesus who does not let our sins define us but provides a path out of them and into freedom.
That Jesus, the real Jesus, is really irresistible. So they gave their lives to Jesus, and Jesus changed their lives.
It happened because a guy named Joe and the kids in the Bible study group loved one at a time.
Idleman, Kyle. 2022. One at a Time: The Unexpected Way God Wants to Use You to Change the World. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Kyle Idleman’s book, One at a Time. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.