A Message from Bob Christensen “Be Jesus”
It was late at night, I was in bed, and just about asleep when the phone rang. It was my friend Rick. I knew it couldn’t be good news. Rick never calls this late. He’s one of those “early to bed, early to rise” kind of guys.
“Gary, Bob Christensen was out riding his bike and was hit by a car,” Rick said. “He didn’t make it.”
A week later, I was sitting on some bleachers at an outdoor track and field in Medicine Lodge, Kansas. Rick was behind a podium on the track sharing his tribute to Bob. The rest of the bleachers were full of people there to celebrate Bob’s life. It may be trite to say, but it’s amazing how quickly things can change sometimes, for the better and the worse.
I’ve known Bob for a little over ten years. I met him through Rick at one of the Brothers in Blue prison events that we participate with in Kansas a few times each year. He was one of the speakers at these events. The inmates loved him because he was a huge encourager. Last year, I attended a men’s retreat here in Colorado and sat next to Bob during much of the event and at the dinner after. We had some great conversations and a lot of laughter. There was always a lot of laughter going on when Bob was around. What I remember most about Bob was his enduring positive attitude about everything. Even when a negative subject would come up, he would find a way to soften it, or see something good in it, or at least make a comment that brought hope. With Bob, there was always hope.
As Rick was sharing more details about Bob’s life, I began to get some deeper insights into who this man really was. Bob was known for helping people in need find housing, and in some cases, he even helped them purchase a home. He did the same with cars. As an attorney, he did a lot of pro-bono legal work for people who couldn’t afford a lawyer. Bob always got a kick out of helping someone and tried to do so without being noticed. One of my favorite stories was how he would take his kids with him on his riding lawnmower and sneak around town mowing people’s lawns on the sly.
Bob wasn’t just a benefactor on the local level either. He helped support many building projects in Mexico, helped pay for college expenses for students in need, and he was always generous with his time to be a mentor and encourager. One of Bob’s trademark sayings was “Be Jesus.” Many times, I’ve heard such a phrase said in a preachy way or with a get-it-together kind of attitude, but when Bob said it, it was always uplifting, positive, and hope-giving. When Bob said “Be Jesus” to you, you wanted to do it, and you believed you could do it.
Toward the end of Rick’s talk, he shared what he believed Bob would say to the person who hit him with the car.
“If Bob were here,” Rick said, “He would have said this to that person: ‘We live in a fallen world. People make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes. It was an accident. I forgive you. God forgives you. I hope you will forgive yourself.’”
It reminded me of when Jesus was crucified and his response: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And I thought, Yes, I know Bob well enough to know this is exactly what he would have said.
To say the phrase “Be Jesus” with authority, we have to be striving to live it ourselves. And I know Bob spent a lot more time telling himself to be Jesus than he ever did telling others. What a great exhortation for us all to aspire to.