by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
I One Sunday morning, I was sitting in choir as usual when Tom, one of our tenors, leaned toward me and said, “You have a dog.” Of course we have a dog! I thought. He knows that! I wondered what in the world he meant. Then he pointed. I looked where he was pointing and saw three small, white hairs, each about an inch long, on my black sock. You could tell we owned a dog by the dog hair on our clothing.
In the same way, others can tell we are Christians, because there ought to be signs. For example, one man at work wears a cross around his neck on a chain. There’s a woman who reads her Bible every morning in the lunch room.
Our faith can show in other ways too. Jesus told the people of his day, “‘But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’” (Luke 6:27-28 NIV). If we love those who would be our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for those who treat us badly, and follow the “golden rule,” others will see that our faith is active and real. Paul echoed these words when he wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. . . . Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Rom. 12:12, 14 NIV). We don’t do these things spitefully, in order to “. . . heap burning coals on his head.” (Rom. 12:20b NIV). Instead, we do them because God loved us first and commanded us to love others. When we are “joyful in hope,” others can see that our hope is real. When we are “patient in affliction,” they can see that our faith is genuine. And when we are “faithful in prayer,” God strengthens us so that we can continue to be joyful and patient.
James wrote, “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about.” (Jas. 5:11a NIV). If we persist in hope, faith, and love, those around us will see, and know that what we have is real. We don’t have to be like Job; in fact, I personally have very little desire to be like Job or to experience the things he did. But in the way we handle everyday situations and struggles, we can show the results of God’s work within us.
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day loved to make a show out of their “good deeds,” making sure everyone could see how holy they were (Matt. 23:1-11). But Jesus told his followers “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11 NIV). The prophet Micah wrote, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8b NIV). These are the requirements of God, what Paul might refer to as “your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom. 12:1b NIV). We aren’t doing anything “special” if we fulfill them, so we have no reason for pride or boasting. When we “act justly . . . love mercy . . . and . . . walk humbly” as acts of faith, God can make our witness great. And if we don’t fulfill God’s requirements, we make a mockery of the faith we proclaim. “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.” (Tit. 1:16a NIV).
Jesus told the disciples, “‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” (John 13:34-35 NIV). If we show genuine love, others will recognize God’s love in us. Loving God means loving each other, and it also means loving people we’d rather not love (Luke 6:32). Being forgiven means forgiving each other and forgiving people we don’t particularly want to forgive (Luke 6:37). But if we do, we can show that God’s love and God’s spirit dwell in us. We don’t need to make a production of our faith the way the Pharisees did; we simply need to live it, every day and every hour. And if do that, those around us will recognize God’s spirit living in us.
“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:23-24 NIV.)
© 2004 by David Phelps