Unless You're "Six Feet Under", You're Probably Not Referred to as a Saint very often!©
Updated: Jan 31
Most people I know are not referred to as "saints" until they're dead!
Recall the last time someone called you a "saint."
The last time someone called me a "saint," I felt embarrassed and kind of laughed it off. I thought, if you really knew me, you wouldn't call me a "saint".
Why is it so hard for followers of Jesus to think of ourselves as saints?
For me, I confess that I have little trouble admitting I'm a sinner in need of grace; however, I find it very difficult to claim the name "saint."
I guess that's because I tend to define the word inaccurately.
When I refer to someone else as a saint, I'm not calling her/him perfect.
What am I saying?
Basically, I'm saying. I think you're a saint because I am thankful for the pattern of Christlikeness I see embodied in your life. When I relate with you, I feel like I'm in the presence of our Savior and Lord: Jesus Christ. When I'm with you, I feel like you're praying for me. I feel like you seek to nurture the waters of baptism that flow from my soul. I sense the Jesus in you reaching out to nurture the Jesus in me. I sense you not only know how to talk about God. I can tell you actually know our Savior and Lord: Jesus Christ. In the words of Job, You act like "My Redeemer Lives!" (As recorded in Job 19:25, "But as for me, I know my Redeemer lives," "New Living Translation of The Bible.")
Think about someone you consider to be a saint.
When I think of saints I know, too many persons come to mind to list here so I'll simply name a brief description of four persons I consider to be saints.
The first one who comes to mind is my wife, Helen. If she puts up with me, she has to be a saint. Seriously, Helen embodies Christlikeness in many ways. She truly forms her life around the teaching of Jesus who said, "When you did it unto the least of these my brethren, you did it unto me." (Matthew 25:40, "King James Version of The Bible.") The ministry she leads as FaithHealth Navigator at Randolph Health in Asheboro, North Carolina is truly astonishing!
Another saint who comes to mind immediately is my dear friend, kindred spirit, and college roommate, Bishop Leonard Fairley. From the time I first met him at Pfeiffer College in Misenheimer, North Carolina, (1977), I knew I was in the presence of someone who knew Jesus as Redeemer, Savior, and Lord. Simply put, Leonard embodies Christlikeness in ways I have never witnessed before. I could write a whole book about him. That's not an exaggeration!
The first "saints" who loved me into being the person I am today were my awesome father, Wil Milleson, and my remarkable mother, Mary Virginia. Both embodied unconditional love. Dad never met a stranger and truly loved everyone with the love of Jesus. (He died on October 27, 2019; although, I still sense his prayers today.) Mom continues to offer me encouragement. She listens with deep caring and compassion. She seeks to offer words of hope any way she can. She especially has the gift of loving persons many people treat as the misfits of the world (Maybe, that's why one of her favorite Christmas holiday shows is "Rudolph, The Red Nose Reindeer.")
Indeed, every authentic follower of Jesus I have ever met is a saint: a forgiven sinner in need of grace who accepts the fact God loves her/him as s/he is where s/he is and loves her/him enough not to leave her/him as s/he is. A saint swims in the sanctifying, making whole love of God. Saints live grateful lives of praise thanking God for helping us grow up to become more like Jesus.
Sisters and Brothers, let's stop being embarrassed when someone refers to us as saints. May we claim the name and continue to love like Jesus. May we claim the name and continue to put on the mind of Christ. May we claim the name and immerse every action in means of grace producing agape!
On another note, I think we need to celebrate "All Saints Day" everyday of the year. Let's start telling one another the ways we see Jesus shining through each other's lives. Let's quit saving all of the "good stuff" for celebration of life services and funerals. We need to acknowledge the testimonies embodied in our actions now. We need to fan the let's be saints flame by reminding one another we are evangels, messengers of the Good News! We all need encouragement! We need it now! The world needs it now!
If we begin nurturing sainthood in one another and quit reserving the word for persons like Mother Teresa, perhaps persons who are not yet followers of Jesus will quit saying, "Why do I want to become a follower of Jesus? Do you see how badly those Christians treat one another?"
Perhaps, if we started looking for ways followers of Jesus act like Jesus we will quit dividing Christians into categories of us and them; perhaps if we quit trying to convince each other how Right I am and how wrong you are, we will start acting like Jesus more here and now.
Perhaps, if we treated one another more like sinners in the process of sanctification than sinners in need of correcting, the world will grow to know the true meaning of love.
The author of John said it best: "This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command...This is my command: Love each other."
(John 15:12-14,17; "New Living Translation of The Bible").
Here's a picture of two saints I took a ride in the neighborhood with recently: my mother and youngest grandson, 31 month old, Daniel. Whenever we're with Daniel, he always makes his MaMaw and Pa Bart feel closer to Jesus. (Let's hope he's still doing that fourteen years from now when he starts to drive. LOL!)