Barber Shop Theology – The Big & Small of it

The Big and Little of the Gospel

 I’ve heard it said that the gospel is simple enough for a child to understand and still so complex that theologians can discuss it at great length. This makes the gospel all the more beautiful.

Just how wonderful is the gospel? Even angels long to look into these things. I Peter 1:12

Precisely what is this gospel? It is ‘good news’. But what is the content of this good news?  Well, for this Barber Shop Theological foray, let’s see the big and the small of the Gospel.

My dad, Oscar, first stepped behind the barber’s chair of his shop in Apache, Oklahoma in January of 1963. I was in the first grade. There is no telling how many thousands of haircuts he has given over the past 48 years.

My dad tried to retire once and sold his shop in town, but a stream of guys from around town found their way to the house and the chair he had put into the garage, and soon he was only semi-retired.  To this day, he still greets customers by their first names as they show up a mile north of town to get a haircut. On my recent visit home,not only did I find a barber’s chair and “OPEN” sign near the front door, but I saw that he had plumbed water for a sink and even lined up some waiting chairs.

Say, that looks like Oscar on the left.

If you want to get a trim by an old guy in Oshkosh overalls who has a clever line or two, ask anyone around town and they can point you to Oscar the barber.

He has always enjoyed people. He has made a career of it. I love to hear him share his barbershop stories which inevitably become brief studies in human behavior. They are told by a man who has always managed to “get a kick” out of even the quirkiest of moments.

Here’s what I mean… It was around quittin’ time at the shop one day when one of those small events happened that Dad still smiles about today. He opened his shop at 7am and would try to close at 6pm. It was just a few minutes past six o’clock as he thanked his last customer and said, “Come back,” as the patron walked out the door. Dad flipped off the light and was standing with his back to the door counting his income for the day. Mind you, barber shops are usually filled with mirrors, so while Dad stood between barber chair and money drawer, he could look down and still cut his eyes up to see whoever walked in.

Sure enough, the front door was pushed open and a fella stepped just inside the shop.  He could plainly see that he had arrived late. “Oh goodness Oscar, looks like you’re closin’ up,” he said as Dad continued to count without turning around.

The man’s two sons were waiting outside and Dad said, “I’ll be right with ya.”

At that, the tardy customer began to verbally recoil, “Oh no Oscar, that’s all right. We’ll just come back tomorrow. Don’t you let us keep you late, no sir that wouldn’t be right. Yep I thought you might close at six, we can come back another…”

As he was spluttering about leaving, however, my dad noticed from the corner of his eye that the man had his arm extended toward his boys; he was rolling his wrist and beckoning them to come in with a curled index finger.  They were all inside and seated before the man even finished his speech.

I asked my dad what happened next (even though I knew perfectly well what my dad would have done).    “Aw I told him it would be fine and I gave three more haircuts that day. I always got a kick outta that.   He had no idea I was watching him in the mirror.”

My dad had a big job. I watched him entertain a shop full of people and have the entire bunch in stitches, all the while giving careful attention to the man in the chair. My dad took great pride in his workmanship as a barber, and he also excelled at remembering names. He made it a point to learn them and was committed to calling his customers by name. His gift was always a clever line or ‘comeback’ with customers, and he still has the knack of saying, “Hello there Truman, how you doin’?” Dad understands the importance of a name to make things personal.

So that’s where I land this day — the Father’s way of a big work, and the individual who is cared for in the midst of eternity. The Gospel is big enough for mankind and the Gospel also fits me.

The Gospel is Small Enough for Even Me

A big part of the reformation and the longevity of the Protestant tradition is the personal gospel story (Jesus died for you and me). The institutional church ofEurope spoke to humanity on the whole and called people to the Body universally. But the individual seemed to get left out of this message. What about that personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

Personal encounters with Christ  inspire and focus us; Individual testimonies demonstrate the intimate details of God’s redemption story.  The real people such as the Ethiopian eunuch, the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume, and Nicodemus speak to the “smallness” of the gospel. Is there anything more beautiful than the moment when that one individual comes to Christ?

The Gospel is Big Enough for Eternity

The gospel is a deeply universal story (the redemption of humanity and fallen earth). The gospel creates a people (a Body) with a whole alternate way of being human. Ethnic and class superiority, material gain at the expense of others, yearning for worldly acclaim have no place in the Kingdom of God. Is there anything more beautiful than the unfolding story of God’s redemption plan?

This plan is so big, so immense that it accounts for eternity. The good news of the gospel is found in the fact that God will remake our world, removing the structural evils of economic oppression, racism and environmental abuse.

The eternal Creator, our God who is good and trustworthy, became flesh. Jesus Christ, the incarnate  comes to meet us where we are (small spot in time and space) and immediately begins moving us to where He is (big expanse in time and space).

   At this point I think of that small spot in time and space, the barber chair. That’s where your name is called, you get a nice clean haircut and you are at the center of the barber shop experience.

Have you jumped into the Gospel?  Ever thought about a pursuit of divine purpose?   Gosh where do we start? Oh, that’s the simple part, witness the glorified One — JESUS.

 JESUS is the good news that Jesus is the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4ff.; Phil. 2:4ff.)     3regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.  

By his death and resurrection, JESUS atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.)  3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

On the cross JESUS broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)  18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.





One thought on “Barber Shop Theology – The Big & Small of it”

  1. Beautiful….I am A Christian Barber and Sharing His Gospel In The Barber Chair as An Extension Of My Faith is an opportunity to Go Forward with Christ leading and fulfilling the Great Commission of the Gospel


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