It is getting awfully close to Canada Day. And that reminds me that I'm of Dutch heritage, too. A favorite story told by Dutch immigrants to Canada and the United States, retold by Sietze Buning in his book of poetry titled Style and Class, concerns Queen Juliana of the Netherlands. Juliana was the mother of the current Queen, Beatrix. Juliana ruled from 1948 to 1980.
Early in her reign, in 1952, Queen Juliana made a visit to a college campus where a number of Dutch immigrants taught, and many more attended. Professors in cap and gown lined the sidewalks as an honor guard while the college president escorted the Queen and her husband Prince Bernhard into the chapel for a convocation.
One elderly professor, too deaf to realize how loudly he spoke, stood waiting for the queen to pass by. As she passed, he broke the honorable silence of the royal procession by saying, to nobody in particular: "Wat heeft zij tog dikke benen!" which translated means, "My, what fat legs she's got!"
Everybody in the procession heard him. Queen Juliana too.
The queen stopped, backed up, faced the old professor, smiled, and said to him, with a smile: "Mijnheer, daar moet het hele Oranjehuis op rusten," which translated means, "Sir, these legs need to hold up the whole House of Orange." Everyone who heard this cheered.
Now, it seems obvious that most of the dignified professors who stood in cap and gown along the sidewalks had good style. The old professor who spoke too loudly lacked style. But nobody minded, because Queen Juliana had class.
This little story is a kind of parable about what it takes to be a good Christian—though I’m sure the story could be applied to being a good Jew or Muslim, too. You see, on the whole, people call us Christians because we have a certain style. We dress up and go to church Sundays. We make sure our buildings are attractive to look at, preferably with a steeple or some stained glass. We have councils and synods and presbyteries. We pray before our meals, some of us even in restaurants. We resist the use of foul language. People see our style, and they figure we must be Christians. Big deal.
We cannot do without this kind of style, of course. But there has to be more to being Christian than just style. Just as Queen Juliana rose above everyday style on account of her being a queen; so too, we Christians must rise above our everyday style. Christians, after all, claim to be ambassadors of reconciliation for the Lord of the Universe. We really ought to have class.
What we need when it comes to authentic Christianity is faith, hope and love. But the classiest of these is love.