God has been teaching me an important lesson lately. Life is busy, but sometimes we need to slow down and invest the time to bless others in real, tangible ways. It’s rarely easy or convenient, but we’re called to share the love of Christ with those around us.
Too often, Christians have an image problem. The world sees us as angry and judgmental. Hollywood and the news media certainly don’t help matters with their portrayal of us, but the truth is, we’re often known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. That’s not entirely bad since there are, in fact, things that we’re against and we shouldn’t hesitate to say so. (The prophets were pretty outspoken in that regard, as was Jesus Himself.) Yet at the same time, we shouldn’t be so busy telling the unpopular truth that we neglect the very human side of our Christian faith—showing love to others not just through our words, but through our actions as well.
What would happen if all of us as believers were known as people who really cared about others—not just because we say we care, but because we show it? What if we were known as the most caring folks in other people’s lives? The media wouldn’t be nearly as successful in portraying us as hateful bigots, and we might actually succeed in winning more people to Christ.
There’s a balance to strike here. Some Christians are so concerned about being “loving” that they end up softening the truth so much that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. But on the other hand, some Christians seem so concerned with telling the hard truths that they forget that one of our ultimate goals is to win people, not just debates.
As God’s people, we’re called to stand up for the truth. No doubt about it. And sometimes that means saying unpopular things, and taking unpopular stands. People won’t always like us (and that shouldn’t be our goal anyway). But we should never give people a reason to question our basic decency, integrity, and love for others.
Let’s take a basic example. Just yesterday I read a statement online from a former restaurant server (who happens to be a believer) who made the observation that some Christians go out to eat and then leave a gospel tract on the table instead of a tip.
What does it say to the server—perhaps a single mom earning minimum wage, tired from being on her feet for hours, with three kids to take care of at home—when a Christian shows “concern” for her soul, but no concern for her overall wellbeing? When she turns on the news later that night and sees a negative story about Christians, she’s going to be all too willing to believe it because she just saw the same thing at work. To her, Christians aren’t kind and loving, they’re just angling for a convert.
If you want to leave a gospel tract when you leave, perhaps it would be better to be especially friendly, treat the server as a real person instead of as your personal servant, and then leave the tract along with a good tip and a note thanking them for their cheerful service. See the difference? The first scenario might be motivated by genuine concern for the server’s soul, but they’re not going to see it that way. The second scenario flows from the same concern, but will connect on a far deeper level because there’s a kind of love and care that they can see and understand.
Jesus was busy, but not too busy to see and meet the needs of the people around Him. Yes, He had strong words for some and never hesitated to speak the truth, but He also didn’t hesitate to do good.
One of my desires in this new year is to do a better job of being the love of Christ to those around me, believers and non-believers alike. Whether it’s treating the checkout person at Walmart with an extra dose of patience and kindness, mowing my elderly neighbor’s grass, taking a meal to someone, or visiting a nursing home, there are many ways I can show the love of Christ to others. As I said before, it’s rarely easy or convenient, but it’s always important. I don’t want to be so busy or preoccupied with my own life that I’m not paying attention to the real people all around me.
In Acts 10:38, while preaching at Cornelius’ home, Peter tells his audience that Jesus “went about doing good.” Jesus Himself said that He came not to be served, but to serve. We can’t claim to be Christ-like if we’re not serving others.
Let’s follow in His steps—both in telling the truth, and in showing love.
Jonathan Lewis is husband to Linnea, and Daddy to Patrick, Timothy, and Katherine. He is a writer, speaker, and self-employed graphic designer. You can reach him at [email protected].