by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa

December, 1997

There’s a lady where I work who drives a car like mine. In fact, she sometimes has trouble deciding which car is hers. It’s easy to understand her confusion. Both cars are the same shade of blue. Both are four door sedans, the same year, make and model. But as you look closer, there are things that are not identical: Her car has Illinois license plates, mine has Missouri; hers has white wall tires, mine has black wall; hers has a blue interior, mine has a gray one; the trim is different; the wheel covers are different; mine has a bumper sticker hers doesn’t have.

In his book, Come Hell On High Water: A Really Sullen Memoir, British author Gregory Jayn tells about a sea voyage. The ship’s cook was Russian and couldn't read English. His only resource was a Betty Crocker cookbook. Since he couldn’t read the cookbook, he tried to make whatever he cooked look like the pictures in the book. One morning, he made French toast sprinkled with paprika. The paprika looked like the cinnamon in the picture but it certainly didn’t taste like it!

One time, a coworker, Damon, saw me reading my Bible. He asked me, “How do you know this stuff is true?”
I told him, “I don't know it's true, but I believe it is.” Then I read Hebrews 11:1 aloud:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

How do others know the gospel is real? How do they know we’re for real? There used to be a slogan for recording tape: “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” The implication was that their recording tape could capture and play back music with such fidelity that no one would be able to tell the difference between live and recorded music. What about us? Are we “live” or are we “Memorex?” Is our faith genuine or is it false? Is our spirituality the real thing or does it just look good, like the French toast with paprika on it instead of cinnamon?

Long ago—about two thousand years ago—a baby was born. It was different from any other baby, so different that people could tell it was special, so different and so special that people came from miles around just to see it. Of course, I’m talking about the baby Jesus. What was it about that particular baby that was different from all the billions of babies who had been born before, and all the billions who have been born since? Did he have a halo, like in all the pictures and on all the Christmas cards? Or was it that people could tell he was different, simply by being near him?

We are called to be different (Rom. 12:2). Our faith shows itself in our actions, our attitudes and the way we deal with others. People around us are paying attention to the way we speak and act, at work, at home and even in church. If we live in accordance with our witness, others will see Christ in us. This is the “assurance” and the “conviction” of our faith, of the gospel, and of the reality of Jesus, the child, the man and the risen savior.

“If you really fulfil the royal law, according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well. . . . So speak and act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.
“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? . . . So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (Jas. 2:8,12-14,17 RSV.)


Copyright © 1997 by Maplewood UMC