by Barry Newton
The book “Where’s Waldo?” challenges us to find an elusive Wally with his distinctive red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses.
At times we may find the search exhilarating or perhaps frustrating. The search for Wally can also provide us with a parable of sort. The setting of this parable involves two young people on a train.
Sitting on a crowded commuter train side by side, a young man picked up a book presumably discarded by an earlier traveler. Turning to the bored-looking lass sitting beside him, he inquired, “Have you ever tried to find Waldo in these books before?”
Perhaps the fact that she even ventured to respond is as surprising as her words, “No, have you?”
He mused, “This will be my first time.”
Together they opened the book to the first bewildering page of colorful detail. Immediately he began methodically scanning every inch of the picture . After several minutes he announced, “Wally is not here.”
Looking up from the same page, she asked, “Why do you say that? I thought Wally was supposed to be on every page.”
Exuding a deep confidence he informed her, “I am quite sure that Wally must have 14 stripes. And none of these characters has 14 stripes on their shirt.”
Her retort was quick. “To me that seems so narrow-minded and maybe even mean-spirited.” Then in an effort to display graciousness and pursue the high road, she announced, “I think everyone on this page is Waldo!”
The story seems far-fetched. No one would make these claims. Furthermore, we know they are both wrong. But how do we know this?
We recognize that the reader does not determine who Wally is. Neither the reader’s character nor his thinking influences who Waldo really is or is not. Instead, many years ago the illustrator Martin Handford decided what Waldo looks like. And when anyone applies his criteria, they are neither being narrow-minded nor gracious, just accurate.
Likewise, who is and is not a Christian is not a matter of our opinion.
If in an effort to be gracious and broad-minded we extend an inclusiveness as far as our hearts can expand, this does not help us identify who Christians truly are. Conversely, if we restrict true Christianity to only those conforming to our privately constructed criteria, similarly our vision will remain muddled.
To accurately perceive Christian identity depends upon listening to the Author who created and still makes people into his new creation.
As far as I can ascertain from scripture, people become Christians when they enter the new covenant created by Christ’s death upon the cross (Hebrews 8:8-13; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27).
Specifically, when people believe the claims of the gospel about Christ and choose to receive the blessings and identity his death made possible, they are to respond to Christ by acknowledging him and relying upon him in immersion.
How accurate are we in identifying Wally? How about those who belong to Christ?