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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Acting vs. Being

Tuesday I posted something I had written on Facebook about a situation I ran into recently in rush-hour traffic. Here's something I posted the next day referring to that earlier discussion

Thinking about my traffic "rant" from yesterday morning. I'm wondering if I might have come off as saying that you have to act right to be a Christian. That is absolutely NOT the case. Our actions are not what makes us Christians. Well, actually, there is ONE action that does make us a Christian: accepting/confessing Jesus as Lord. After that, other actions are irrelevant to our standing with God, although if we live a life of sin we may FEEL far from God. The blood of Jesus washes all of that clean, once and for all. Which, as the apostle Paul would (and did) say, is no license to sin, but our sin or lack of sin does not make or break our relationship as sons and daughters of God.

That said, our actions before others DO reflect on Christ. Our goal should be to let God transform us into something we can't make of ourselves. It's not a matter of white-knuckling it every time we want to sin and "being good" instead; it's a matter of letting go of our sin and letting our actions reflect what we already are. When I am tempted to sin, I have the option of either giving in and doing what I know I shouldn't do, or letting go of that worthless stuff and being the child of God that Jesus has transformed me into. I'm not sure those who have not accepted Jesus always have that option; the Bible seems to say that they are enslaved to sin and can't escape it. Followers of Jesus are free from sin; we can refuse to do it, or we can go ahead and make those mistakes. We have the choice; that's our freedom in Christ.

So, back to the highway thing. Let's say I'm the guy in the car who sees another driver do something that makes me upset. My first impulse might be to honk my horn, flip the middle finger, or even follow that person to wherever they're going and have angry words with them. But I have another option: I can put down that anger like putting down a rock I was going to use to stone someone. I can take off that "old man" reaction to the situation, and put on the "new man" reaction. I can look on that person with love and forgive them.

Don't try to "be good". You can't do it. It's not a matter of adding goodness to the situation; your goodness comes from God. God's reaction to the situation is already there. It's a matter of letting go of the bad to reveal the good that God has given you. The old hymns talk about being "stained with sin" which is "washed away" by the blood of Jesus; the stain has been removed, so it's only a matter of getting rid of the muck and stuff that might be clinging to you and revealing the cleansed person that was always there underneath. That's the example of Christ that others need to see. That's the person that reflects well on the church whose logo is in the back window of your car and the God whose Bible verse is on your T-shirt. Show others the person God has made you, not the shadow of the person you would be without Him.

Is it important to "act right" to be a Christian? Should we just plan on following Jesus and hope our actions will fall into line, or do we need to put some effort into it? Sound off by clicking the "Comments" link below this post!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Traffic Witness

Recently I posted this to Facebook... the resulting discussion was so interesting that I thought I would share it here as well.

Driving in rush-hour traffic this morning. Saw that a big tanker truck had pulled partially out into the road, blocking one lane on a 2-lane stretch with no shoulder. My instinct was to move over into the left lane to avoid the chance of getting into a mess, but I started to zig without looking first. I saw the white BMW before I pulled out in front of it and zagged back into my lane. I freely admit that this was my bad, starting to make a lane change without looking out for traffic first.

The person in the Beamer wanted to make sure I knew how bad I was. As he or she flew past (apparently without touching his or her brake pedal at all), he or she blew his or her horn at me. The incident was over; this was not to warn me that I was making a mistake. This was a punitive horn honk; censure, not alarm. I was being yelled at.

Turns out we were headed along the same route. We got off the highway at the same place, and I pulled up behind Beeping Beamer at the stop light. Guess what I saw in the back window of the car?

A church logo sticker.

If I had not been a Christian but knew what the sticker was, this would have reinforced several stereotypes for me, the most important being "Being a Christian doesn't make any change in a person." Another would be "Wealthy Christians are jerks, just like other wealthy people." There might even be an element of "that person isn't really a Christian, they just use the church to get more money" in there, which would be totally ungrounded in reality, but people think these kinds of things. If you have a sticker advertising your church, or your faith, or even a Christian radio station on your car, do you want to give out that kind of message? To broaden the question: if people know you are a Christian, whether you're wearing your WWJD t-shirt or not, what kind of message are you broadcasting with your actions?

I know tons of wonderful Christians who can testify that God HAS made a change in their hearts. Some of them are financially comfortable; some maybe not as much. Wealthy or not, having Jesus in your life DOES make a change, or at least He will if you let Him. But none of us are perfect. We do get cranky in rush-hour traffic. We do have the impulse to honk our horns in anger. But I think it's worth it to remember that people are watching. The things we do reflect on the Christ inside of us. Let's make our actions match up with the gift of life we've been given.

Have a thought about our actions reflecting our beliefs as Christians? Having stickers advertising your church on your car? Looking before you switch lanes? Sound off by clicking the "Comments" link below this post!