How’s your witness–the impact of your influence for Christ? Does your life–your words and actions, the decisions you make, the way you respond to daily frustrations and setbacks even when you’re tired or overworked–give others an accurate example of what obedience to Jesus looks like? None of us lives exclusively for ourself. Whether we realize it or not, our lives have a spiritual footprint that leaves an example for others, good or bad; that leads the people we interact with closer to–or farther away from–God.
“Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s.” (1 Corinthians 11:1 CEB)
The first time I ran across this verse I was somewhat surprised because it seemed boastful not humble–written by Paul (perhaps the most influential Christian missionary ever), yet seemingly inappropriate for someone who claims to follow Christ. Yet it wasn’t arrogant because Paul had so structured and lived his life in a way that qualified him to present his life as an example to be followed. Can you say the same of your own?
When you step back and take a look at yourself from the perspective other people see when they look at you, is your life such you can honestly urge them to imitate it? Or do you have parts of your life that don’t look like a life infused and redeemed by the holiness of Christ should look like? If so, do something about it!
What is it in your life that misrepresents the holiness of Christ? Of course, we’re “human,” but I suspect far too often we use that to excuse the unholiness and sin in our life we don’t particularly feel like cleaning up. So what in your life–if everyone knew–would cause you shame or make you feel like you need to start explaining yourself?
You probably already know what these things are! Are you, perhaps, drinking secretly–excusing yourself by saying you’re stressed and it helps you relax? God’s Word doesn’t specifically seem to forbid alcohol, but it does say we shouldn’t be under the influence of anything but Christ’s Spirit; some people choose to abstain altogether. Consider how others will be impacted by your decision, and remember that Jesus told us to figuratively cut off our hand if it causes us to stumble. Do you need to cut something out of your life?
What about your public persona? Some of us are pretty much who we are, and the person we present to others is the person we are in private. But it can also be tempting to adjust our “self” based on whom we’re talking to. (Remember James said to not treat the rich person differently than the poor person.) I’ve noticed, for example, that I tend to act differently with the store manager than with my coworkers, and that who I am at work is different from who I am at home. Some of this is unavoidable–we may need to serve customers, be engaged, helpful, focused–but we need to also watch our behavior to make sure our witness doesn’t go awry. When I worked in sales I felt I had to cultivate a certain degree of what is probably best described as charm. Yet too much niceness can be misinterpreted; it can be mistaken for flirtatiousness, and can actually end up misrepresenting Christ. We need to always remember that first and foremost we are a representatives of Christ to a dying world, and never let our behavior devolve into conduct unbecoming the holiness of God.
What about the degree of mercy–or lack of it–you show others? When someone who owes you something is going to be late–or can’t pay altogether–are you ready to send them to a collection agency, or do you realize that God cares about their suffering, and show some grace?
Ultimately, what does your life look like–what are you known for? When people look back at your memory after you’re gone, what will you be remembered for? Will it be that you were the best (salesperson, mechanic, architect, translator, engineer–fill in the blank)? Will you be known for your professional accomplishments, the people you knew, the licenses you earned, how much of your goals you accomplished, how well your children did, the neighborhood you lived in, the trips you took, how interesting your life was, or any of the myriad of other things people devote their time and energies toward? Or will people remember that you were a faithful man or woman of God who did their best to reflect the holiness of Christ to others?
“Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children, you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy. Since you call upon a Father who judges all people according to their actions without favoritism, you should conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your dwelling in a strange land. Live in this way, knowing that you were not liberated by perishable things like silver or gold from the empty lifestyle you inherited from your ancestors. Instead, you were liberated by the precious blood of Christ, like that of a flawless, spotless lamb. Christ was chosen before the creation of the world, but was only revealed at the end of time. This was done for you, who through Christ are faithful to the God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory. So now, your faith and hope should rest in God.” (1 Peter 1:13-21 CEB)
Dear Lord God,
Help me be holy because You, the Lord my God, are holy. Amen.