Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with a friend whom I haven’t seen in a while. As we spent the day wandering around enjoying the sights, sounds and food of the city, our conversation soon turned to reminiscing about old days and some friends whom we had grown up with.
Though now scattered across the world in different professions, we’ve all still managed to maintain contact with one another on a semi-regular basis (thanks to the wonders of facebook, email and texting), and make every effort to gather together for reunions whenever a few of us are in the same place.
During our conversation, my friend began to tell me about a mutual friend, who for lack of better words, seems to have turned into a rather mean person. As I listened to my friend’s account of some of the interactions between him and my friend, I was not only shocked by his behavior, but found myself deeply saddened.
See this person also proclaims to follow Christ.
The Audience Around Us
“All the world’s a stage, and it’s men and women merely players.” Of the many Shakespeare plays that I enjoyed studying throughout high school, this line has always stuck with me. 1) Because I think it’s beautifully written, and 2) because I do think that on some level, every person’s life is on display for the world to see, through our words and actions.
As I’ve journeyed on in life, one thing that’s become pretty apparent to me is that we as Christians should be mindful of the impression we are giving to those around us. I believe that if you’ve truly given your life over to Christ, then you now represent Him and not yourself. This is why we are called Christ’s ambassadors to the world. (2 Corinthians 5:20) He’s counting on us to represent Him properly to others.
So you can imagine why it was particularly distressing to me in this instance, when my non-Christian friend was expressing her hurt and offense at this individual’s behavior, ending with the dreaded sentence: “I mean, isn’t he supposed to be Christian?”
The Small Things ARE The Big Things
The one thing that really stood out to me is that even though this guy was also engaged in other seemingly reckless activities like partying, drinking and an inappropriate (by Christian standards) relationship with his girlfriend, my friend seemed more offended by the unkind words that he spoke.
Sometimes as Christians, it seems we think that if we don’t do drugs, get drunk or have sex before marriage, then we’re doing just fine with Jesus. We assume that if we stay away from the BIG sins, the rest of it isn’t as big a deal. But I beg to differ.
I’ve found that most people who feel hurt and wounded by Christians often times point back to feeling judged and condemned. As my friend aptly said, “it’s really about what’s inside of a person that counts.” So could it be then, that our words matter immensely to those around us who don’t know Christ?
Luke 6:45 says “for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and I think this is something we would all do well to remember. The fact is people can tell if we’re putting up a front or being fake nice, and our words are what usually betray our characters. Living a life of faith then, isn’t a choice between words or actions, it’s both.
Check Your Witness
My point with today’s post is this: We have to watch ourselves, what we’re doing AND what we’re saying. Whether we like it or not, people are always watching us, and I know I would hate to ever have the finger pointed back at me and hear someone say “I thought you were supposed to be Christian.”
No matter what we think or perceive about others, the fact is God is the only one who can judge. More than that, He loves them. Unconditionally. And if we want others to come into a relationship with Him, then we must love them. And you know what? Any problems or issues that we think someone has, God will able to work out with that individual.
So today as you go along your business, I urge you really think about the things you are saying to others and the impact it has on your witness. Just as a loving word can lead something to Jesus in an instant, a negative word can turn them off completely. You hold far more power than you realize to influence those around you for Christ.
The question then is, which will you choose?
Kimberly Chung is the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, a ministry focused on forging partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus. She is a campus minister to The University of Texas at Austin and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org