By Tom Claibourne
Christopher Columbus was a lot like us, but his reputation and the holiday that bears his name have fallen on hard times. Not so many years ago, Columbus Day (October 8) prompted thoughts of daring adventure and the pursuit of new horizons. In recent times, it has become an occasion for divisive rhetoric and historical revision.
Columbus the hero has become Columbus the villain. In reality, neither extreme is completely accurate.
Was Columbus a man of faith? Yes. Did he desire to bring “the Word of God to unknown coastlands”? Yes. Was his Book of Prophecies filled with Bible references and quotations? Yes. Did he believe that his name Christopher (meaning “Christ bearer”) reflected God’s call on his life? Yes. Was he deeply troubled by the idol worship, cannibalism, sex slavery, and other violence he found in some places in the Americas? Absolutely!
However, was Columbus always a model of Christlike behavior? No. Were his travels partly motivated by a desire for money and fame? Yes. Was his later time as a governor in the new world stained by tyranny, abuse, and mismanagement? Yes. Was Columbus a sinner? Absolutely!
Christopher Columbus was a lot like us: a mixture of good and bad. He spoke often of God, but at times was not godly . . . just like us. He struggled with some relationships . . . just like us. He was a flawed human being . . . just like us. He was a sinner in need of God’s grace . . . just like us.
No wonder he planted crosses upon arriving in new lands; he understood that Jesus’ sacrifice was his only hope for salvation. No wonder the first land he sighted and visited in the Americas he named San Salvador (meaning “holy Savior”). No wonder on the morning of August 3, 1492, as his crew began their dangerous voyage into the unknown, Columbus knelt on the dock in the predawn half-light to receive the Lord’s Supper. He was keenly aware of his own need of grace.
So today as we begin our journey of a new week, let’s kneel before the great God of grace and recall the blood shed for Christopher Columbus and for us. Then let’s arise and resolve to live with grace by the power of God’s Spirit, to take the Word of God to all peoples, and to live for the glory of Jesus Christ, our redeemer and holy Savior.
Tom Claibourne has shared the Lord’s Supper with other forgiven sinners at the Bethlehem Church of Christ in rural southern Ohio for the past 39 years.