My brother Marc has an odd-looking recumbent bike. If you went to my parents’ apartment you would see a blown up, framed photo of my father taken on the contraption during his 2007 trip to Florida. You sit in a reclining position and it makes you look like your ride is as easy as rolling off a log.
Marc tells me the word “recumbent” hales from the Puritan days, and that it was often used to indicate a godly “resting” in Christ. The following is a more recent citing by Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), before the term went under for the last time and became unintelligible to modern English speakers (italics mine):
“Dost thou believe? ‘I believe,’ says one, and he begins to repeat what they call the ‘Apostles’ Creed.’ Hold your tongue, sir! That matters not; the devil believes that, perhaps more intelligently than you do; he believes and trembles. That kind of believing saves no man. You may believe the most orthodox creed in Christendom, and perish. Dost thou trust—for that is the cream of the word ‘believe’—dost thou trust in Jesus? Dost thou lean thy whole weight on him? Has thou that faith which the Puritans used to call ‘recumbency’ or ‘leaning’? This is the faith that saves—faith that falls back into the arms of Jesus, a faith that drops from its own hanging-place into those mighty arms.”
My brother never met a café patron, or a hotel maid, or a Pétanque player, or a cabbie he didn’t try to witness to. So whenever he is cruising around Fort Lauderdale with his funny looking bike and someone asks him what it is, it takes Marc two sentences to get to the subject of Jesus and eternal life. You can say a lot of things about my kid brother, but you can’t say he misses an opportunity for the gospel.
It makes me think I should run out and buy a recumbent bike. But then I catch myself and realize that it’s not the bike that makes the man, it’s the man that makes the bike an instrument for God.