“If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing what you behave.” – Fulton J. Sheen
Ellie, Daddy and I have traveled across the nation these past few weeks. Of course, this means that we attend other churches. I always love visiting other churches…though I must admit I get lost people watching. This must be the psychologist in me; I love observing the interactions of strangers and considering the causes of their choices and behaviors. Visiting a church in the beautiful state of Washington was no different. I kind of got lost in observation. Getting lost in this sort of way typically causes my introspective rivers to flow. And flow they did. I began to wonder…here is a great church, full of great people, worshiping God…but if I passed them in the grocery store tomorrow would I know that they were a believer? And then it kind of hits me like a water baloon: if they passed me, how would they know that I am a believer? Standing in a church that I am unfamiliar with, looking around, considering what exactly sets us apart…in this church, in my church, in any church…how do people know who we are?
I think about myself, and others who are a part of my generation. So caught up in life. I mean, for most of us it is in full swing. Busy careers, time with family, time with friends, time cleaning and cooking and grocery shopping. And in it all, how do they know? Co-workers, bosses, the teller at the bank, the bagger at the grocery store. What sets us apart? I think it is so easy to make excuses. I’m too busy to smile, I’m trying to get a promotion so it’s best to keep my faith to myself, the teller was a jerk so I am going to be a jerk back. Yeah, I have made these or similar excuses. But sitting in this church surrounded by strangers I see the heartbreaking truth behind the excuses that I tell myself. They don’t know cuz they can’t see it in you. And I just let that sink into my heart…consider the implications of this revelation…and resolve to behave as I believe. Jesus was kind to even the annoying pharisees, He was friendly with beggars, He shared His message of salvation with everyone He met. And here I am perpetuating anything but everything I believe about Jesus. So they can’t know, they can’t see it in me.
And really, how important do we really make God in our lives? I fear that my generation, myself included, fail to behave as we believe more often than not. Some of us go to work and get angry at our co-workers. Some of us cuss whenever we get the chance. Some of us chose to play video games instead of reading our Bibles. While some of us forget everything that we believe, everything that we hear on Sunday morning and go out and live the opposite. This is the scary part. A slave cannot serve two masters. Eventually it catches up with us. We don’t behave as we believe anymore, we believe as we behave. Yeah, cussing is ok, yeah smoking is fine, oh speeding is ok, telling that jerk off – he deserved it! In the blink of an eye the lies we tell ourselves become the truths we believe. We act on these twisted truths forgetting everything we once held in our hearts. It’s almost like an act. We take bits and pieces of our faith, the easy ones like going to churchon Sundays…and the rest of the time we live our distorted realities that look nothing like what God would chose for us to live. Still, they do not know. While we are saved from ultimate judgment our actions deliver judgment to those who are not saved.
And there I am, still sitting in that church surrounded by strangers, and they heavy burden of failure settles on my heart. I ask myself, is this who I want to be? Is this who I want Ellie to see? Is this who I want anyone to see? But how do you go about demonstrating what you believe? How do you make them see? I think it is partly rooted in pride…we have to be willing to give up that promotion, or cuss words, or the satisfaction gained by behaving rudely to the cashier. It’s not always the words that let people know, its the behavior too. It seems like we have to remind ourselfes to stop and think…think about what you really want to say or do…and do the opposite! Our fallen nature is first to respond but never right. The more you think about it, the more you surrender pride, precautions, fears, and failures to God the easier it gets. So cliche I know; but the truth is, the more we do something the better we get at doing it. Our words and actions may be the deciding factor in someone’s decision regarding eternity. So take a moment to consider: how do they know?
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” – C.S. Lewis