“A Man in Whom There Is No Guile”

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, a chapter utterly amazing from its very first verse, we have, among much else, the story of Christ’s calling of his first disciples (apostles).

Two of them did some of the greatest work of their lives right then. Andrew went and told his brother Peter about Jesus and, literally, brought him to Christ, saying, “We have found the Messiah!” And when Jesus, on the next day, himself calls Philip (who was, like Andrew and Peter, from Bethsaida), Philip then summons Nathanael to come and meet Jesus.

Remember Nathanael’s reaction? “Really!? Do you mean to tell me that anything good can come out of Nazareth, that dump of a town?” (My paraphrase.) “Come and see,” replies Philip.

As Nathanael is approaching Jesus, I see Christ looking up, smiling, eyes twinkling, and I’m reminded again why the disciples not only loved the Lord, they liked him intensely.

“Look here,” he grins through the words, “a true son of Israel! A man in whom there is no deceit—not a false bone in his body!” (my paraphrase, along with NIV, The Message, etc.). Many older versions say, “A man in whom there is no guile.”

What a fine compliment from anyone about anyone, but Jesus himself is giving this one: “I tell you, friends, here comes someone who is utterly honest, open, true, trustworthy, and good as gold! What you see is what you get, and what you get is genuinely good.”

That’s what Jesus said long ago about Nathanael. And that’s what I tell you right now about my friend Allen Ketchersid. Anyone who knew Allen would agree.

Many of Allen’s family and friends came together today in Bloomington, Indiana, to thank God for the faith-filled life of our friend, who passed away completely unexpectedly on May 16.

The Ketchersid and Shelburne clans share some amazing ties, deep friendships, and a common allegiance. My dad was Allen’s father’s teacher. Allen’s father, Eddy, was my teacher. Eddy was actually living in our family’s home in Amarillo when my surprising birth (Mom was 42) meant that I needed his room and kicked him out.

Among our two clans, the number of years of professional Christian ministry (beginning with both “patriarchs”) amounts to over 300 years. (I know. At first, I didn’t believe that number myself, but I’ve done the math multiple times.) Add to that many more years of other church leadership, service, and ministry. The parallels and ties between the families are rather astounding, and, no surprise, we are dear friends.

I could go on. Life, real life, is about relationship, as Christ has taught us. What a blessing from God this relationship has been since before I was born.

Allen himself was one of the best men I have ever known—a fellow pastor, an incredibly esteemed colleague, an amazingly astute and wise leader. Utterly devoted to his Lord and his family, he was one of one of the best friends a person could ever have.

As I worked as a ministry “intern” with his father, we rode to college together. We laughed with each other and with each other’s siblings. We grew families, served churches, edited publications, and on I could go.

What a good man!

On the Monday that Allen died (a massive heart attack, it seems), his family and friends were in shock, but my wife and I drove, as planned, to Amarillo to attend a granddaughter’s kindergarten graduation planned for the next morning. (Oh, how Allen loved his grandchildren, too!)

I was driving to a grocery store, and I stopped behind a guy in a black SUV. On each corner of his back window, he’d carefully applied two decals (a matched set, I guess), each proclaiming in lewd words and stick figures (I apologize to you for this) his message to anyone following him: “____ U” and “____ It,” meaning the world, in general, I assume.

I wondered why anyone would go to such pains to show his hatred and disdain for everyone and everything. It angered me. Then saddened me. And I was already sad.

I don’t know what kind of wreckage that pathetic man in that SUV is leaving in his own life and the lives of everyone he touches. I can only imagine. And I guess he continues to spread it.

But I also know that people don’t have to live like that. As weak as we all often are, it is still possible to try every day to share love and friendship, truth and grace and mercy, and to honor the One who gave us the gift of life and hope by sharing that gift in a way that brings blessing and joy.

I know it’s possible. Allen did it.

Yes, you’d have liked him. A man as good as gold, not a false bone in his body.

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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