Making the Ask

Justo Gonzalez tells the story this way:

Calvin arrived at Geneva in 1536 with the firm intention of stopping there for no more than a day, and then continuing his journey to Strasbourg. But someone told [William] Farel [the leader of the struggling Protestant movement there] that the author of the Institutes was in town, and the result was an unforgettable interview that Calvin himself later recorded. Farel, who ‘burned with a marvelous zeal for the advancement of the gospel,’ presented Calvin with several reasons why his presence was needed in Geneva. Calvin listened respectfully to the other man, some fifteen years older. But he refused to heed Farel’s plea, telling him that he had planned certain studies, and that these would not be possible in [Geneva]. When the latter had exhausted his arguments, and failed to convince the young theologian, he appealed to their common Lord, and challenged Calvin with a dire threat: ‘May God condemn your repose, and the calm you seek for study, if before such a great need you withdraw, and refuse your succor and help.’ Calvin continues his report: ‘these words shocked and broke me, and I desisted from the journey I had begun.’ Thus began his career as the reformer of Geneva.

From The Story of Christianity: Volume 2 (Peabody: Prince Press, 2005 [1985]), 65.

The question another pastor friend of mine here in Chicago put to me was: Can we do that??? I don’t know. Maybe the next time someone useful for the mission here comes to tell me he’s sailing away I might just try calling down a curse from heaven on him and see what happens.


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