A year ago, Amal Alamuddin was on no one’s watch list to be Barbara Walters’ “most fascinating person.” Though she is fluent in Arabic, French and English, graduated from Oxford with honors, received a law degree from New York University, and became a respected human rights lawyer in London, she generated few headlines. Then she met George Clooney during a charity dinner in Italy. The couple was married last September. Now she tops the list of “most fascinating” people for the year.
What we think of someone may not reflect who they truly are. Walmart shoppers saw Tim Tebow as a retired football player before he began paying off their layaway tabs last week on behalf of Good Morning America. Marcus Mariota wasn’t even a candidate for the Heisman trophy last year. This year he won the award as college football’s top player, receiving the second-highest percentage of votes in history. The world saw Steve Jobs as an unemployed computer geek when he was building computers in his parents’ garage. Now one of those computers has sold for $365,000 at auction.
Our opinion doesn’t change reality. A man recently told me, “I don’t believe in hell,” as though his opinion was relevant to hell’s existence. I could say, “I don’t believe in Queen Elizabeth,” but my disbelief doesn’t make her any less real.
It is far wiser to align our opinion with reality, a fact that is especially relevant with regard to eternal truth. I recently preached on the story of Simeon, the man who met the infant Jesus in the temple. Luke describes this man as “devout” (Luke 2:25), translating the Greek eulabes. This word is used only by Luke in the New Testament, but was common in ancient Greek literature. Plato and others employed it, always with a very specific meaning.
Eulabes describes a person who assesses God properly, recognizing his sovereignty and supreme holiness, and who therefore submits to him with fear and reverence. Because he was “devout,” when Simeon met and embraced the infant Jesus, he knew he held divinity in his arms. And he gave him the reverent worship due his Lord.
May we follow his example today.
During the Christmas season, our culture thinks of Jesus as a baby in a manger. But the baby grew up. He became a boy whose wisdom astounded the scholars of his nation. He became a man who calmed stormy seas with his command, who banished demons and healed lepers and raised the dead. He was worshiped by shepherds when he was born, by Magi as a child, and by disciples who made him their King. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). As the poem has it, “all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as has that One Solitary Life.”
How “devout” are you today?