I rarely take offence at something; I’m hard to offend as I generally allow people to have whatever opinion they want to have, but ONE thing will get me angry; if someone calls me ‘good living’! I have on many occasions found myself saying avidly “I’m NOT good living, I’m a CHRISTIAN!” (For those who may not know this common term, it refers to someone who lives a ‘clean’ life and does not ‘indulge’ in the pleasures of the world).
Jesus once posed a question to his critics: “Which is easier to say…” (Matt. 9:5). In a moment, I shall pose a similar question, but first let me relate an incident which happened: A couple travelled from Northern Ireland to England to collect a caravan they had purchased on eBay. On arriving, it was discovered that the car electrics had been wired incorrectly. They had to stay in the caravan overnight in the sellers’ garden and get the car rewired the following day, rebooking a different ferry home. The woman selling the caravan remarked to them how amazed she was at their calm nature in how they dealt with the situation, which gave the buyers the chance to ‘witness’ to her about how they had faith in Jesus Christ and could face any situation with confidence that it was all in God’s hands and part of his plan, and they were thankful that they could glorify God by their testimony.
Now when I hear about a believer’s ‘testimony’ in any evangelical church in this country, what do I hear? Over and over and over… “I don’t smoke or drink or go to the pubs”…. I genuinely think I can hear God saying “BIG DEAL!” (Now I KNOW my God is far above such petty rebuke, but this is what I hear in MY mind). We claim to have the Holy Spirit of the God of the Universe living in us and the pinnacle of what he has done in our lives is “well, I stopped drinking.”???
There are many ‘good living’ people in this world who have no faith in God at all, so how exactly does THAT witness to anyone? I can tell you of many, many, many examples of people who have said things like “oh, yeah, THAT guy! He’s one of those holy rollers, looks down his nose at you if you invite him for a drink, thinks he’s holier than the rest of us, but I don’t see anything about him that looks like he’s capable of caring about anyone else or that he lives by the faith he professes!”
If people want to look for proof of a religious lifestyle, like they seek from ANY religious person of ANY faith, then such things will convince them of your devotion to a code. People who look at you as a Christian for something REAL, though, aren’t bothered by petty little ways that you choose to spend your hours, or all the ‘shalt nots’ that you religiously keep (any religion can boast such trivia), they look for faith, integrity, honesty, tolerance, forgiveness, avoidance of hypocrisy or vanity, and above all, LOVE; if that’s what we say we believe in! “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Need I even quote 1 Corinthians chapter 13?
So here’s my poser: “Which is easier to say: ‘I don’t smoke or drink or go to the pubs’ or ‘I make every effort to live according to my beliefs and seek to persevere in my faith despite all the natural hardships life throws at me, and try my best, with God’s help, to be a light and a strength and a loving and listening ear to everyone around me’?
Better still, which is easier to DO? (I don’t, for one second, think that I achieve this every day of my life, but by God’s grace, I shall pursue it!) Get REAL, people!
Grace be with you.