I met Karl Barth’s barber

Len Sweet tells this story (I have no idea whether it actually happened or whether it is an ‘evangelilegend’) about Karl Barth:

[Karl Barth] was riding a street car in his home city of Basel, Switzerland. He took a seat next to a tourist, and the two men started chatting with one another.

“Are you new to the city?” Barth inquired. “Yes,” said the tourist.” “Is there anything you would particularly like to see in the city?” asked Barth. “Yes,” said the tourist, “I would like to meet the famous Swiss theologian, Karl Barth,” was the reply. “Do you know him?” Barth answered, “As a matter of fact, I do know him. I give him a shave every morning.”

The tourist got off the street car at the next stop, quite delighted with himself. He went back to his hotel and told everyone, “I met Karl Barth’s barber today

Sweet tells the story to make the point that we (like the early disciples) often fail to recognise Jesus when is among us. It’s about recognition (or the lack of it).

I’d like to suggest something else from the story: why was the tourist content to stop with (who he thought to be) Barth’s barber? Why not ask the man if it would be possible to set up an introduction? Why leave it where he did?

The moral of that is that some of us probably do the same with Jesus. We meet people who know him, who love him and revel in his grace. We read their books and listen to their podcasts. Some times we even get to meet them. But for some odd reason we are content to leave it at that. We are content to say ‘I met ___ ____ (insert the name of your evangelical superhero here) today.’

The crazy irony of the missed opportunity.

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