We who are Christians are called to live different lives. Not a message we hear much about today, but certainly the message of our Lord and his followers. Jesus said, "In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16, NCV). Peter reminds us, "Be careful how you behave among your unsaved neighbors; for then, even if they are suspicious of you and talk against you, they will end up praising God for your good works when Christ returns" (1 Peter 2:12, The Living Bible). And the Apostle Paul wrote, "So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times" (Ephesians 5:15-16, NCV).
The story is told of a young woman in a small farming community who had a reputation. This young woman had an illegitimate son, and life was not easy for them in that small community. One day this young woman heard and responded to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Her life changed. She began to attend church regularly. Sadly, not all of God’s children reflect the love, forgiveness and acceptance of their Father, and some, including the pastor, were not overjoyed to have this particular young woman and her son in their little fellowship. Not to be deterred, this transformed woman attended regularly and each Sunday she would march her son right down front and sit in the first row.
It so happens that in this particular church, hanging behind where the pastor stood was a copy of Warner Sallman’s famous painting "The Head of Christ." Now the pastor was a large man and somewhat bombastic in his style of preaching. When he would walk into the pulpit, he would block the little boy’s view of the painting. One Sunday when he could stand it no longer, the little boy piped up for all to hear, "Mamma! Who is that man, who every time he stands up, I can’t see Jesus?"
There is a lot of good, practical theology in that little boy’s comment. If we are truly followers of Christ, then people should see Jesus in us. As I tell my parishioners at Gateway, we are not called to be portraits of a Christian, we are called to be windows through which people see Jesus. If the window is dirty, it’s pretty hard to get a clear picture of the one we claim to represent.
An impossible goal? If we try to live the Christian life in our own power it is. Many have the tendency to reduce Christianity to another mere religion. Religion is our attempts to reach God, true Christianity is God’s attempt to reach us. Religion reduces Christianity to a set of rules and regulations, while real Christianity is about relationship. The evils that have been done over the centuries in the name of Christianity are the result of this reduction of the relationship into religious activities. True Christianity is a daily walk with the Savior; a living relationship. It is, as the Bible puts it "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27 NASB).
Do we always get it right? No. I blow it more than I care to admit. Sometimes my representation of Christ is obscured by dirt on my personal windows. Do I get discouraged and quit? No. I admit my failures (both to God and man), allow him to pick me up, and I go on from there.
Like the little boy who saved up his pennies to buy a puppy, and when the day came, he went to collect that puppy. Picking up a puppy who was sitting alone in the back of the pen, the owner came, saw the puppy the boy had chosen, and said, "Son, you don’t want that puppy! That puppy is crippled and will never be able to run with you in the park and play with you."
Tenderly, the little boy placed the puppy on the ground beside him, then raised his pant-legs revealing two metal braces on his own legs. "Sir," he said, "I’m crippled too, and because of that I thought we could be even better friends."
Dear readers, as I write to you I write as one who is also crippled in my walk by the sin that so easily besets us. I don’t always get it right, and sometimes some are kind enough to point out where I may have made a wrong impression. To you I am grateful. My desire is not to impress you with my writings, my desire is that you would see Jesus.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. He can be heard Thursdays on the radio on WMVV 90.7 (FM) at 8:30 p.m.