Archive for September, 2009

This morning I was confronted with one of those Bible passages with which we like to do one of two things. It is a passage that we either try to ignore altogether or explain it away so that we become convinced that it could never apply to our situation. The passage deals with giving honor to leaders, even bad leaders, even if you vehemently disagree with what they are doing. The words come from the Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 2:13, 14 and 17. “13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good…17 Honor everyone. Love the Brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor” Peter goes on to talk about also honoring your boss as well as being willing to suffer for doing good. Those are not easy things to put into practice.

Now before I go any further let me make it clear, in the last election I voted for the other guy so this is not coming from an apologist for the current administration. Rather, I am trying to look at this from the standpoint of making Christian witness a priority over political ideology. What I have seen in recent months, in terms of political rancor and vitriol is not new, at least not in my eyes. One advantage of being a child of the sixties is I have seen demonstrations against the government that make the G-20 demonstrators look like a Sunday school class out for an ice cream social. So I am not concerned about the general population getting all angry and nasty in politics. That is nothing new no matter what the media says. What does concern me is the level ridicule, bitterness, and anger bordering on hatred that is being poured out by many claiming to follow Christ. Instead of attacking the issues that we disagree over, many are falling into the time honored tradition of attacking the person expressing the ideas.

I always find it humbling to the extreme that the first century Christians continued to honor the Emperor with the exception of worshiping him as a god, even as he was having some of them put to death for their faith. Peter makes it clear why this was to be the practice of Christ-followers. 1st Peter 2:21-23 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” That is the kind of life that we as Christ-followers are to demonstrate to the world around us.

But what is the purpose in it? Peter also makes that clear. We are to live this way, honoring those in authority even when they make us suffer so that they will glorify God. “Keep your conduct honorable among the gentiles so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1st peter 2:12 This is why I say I am more concerned with our Christian witness than I am with political ideology. Peter says that the ultimate goal is NOT for us to shape the government. Certainly we are to be involved in the process but if we get the public policy we want and do not live in such a way that leads people to people glorify God, then we have failed. It would be better to have lost the policy debate and have won people to Jesus than to have won the debate and lost our witness and our souls.

This is why Peter says that we are to honor others. We are to treat them with respect and dignity, even serving them while we disagree with their policy or their methods. We debate the issues. We don’t attack the person. We should be involved in the public debate in order to demonstrate what a Christ-follower is really like, not just what we think, but how we love and honor others. So disagree all you want with President Obama, with your governor, mayor, town dog catcher. If you are in another country the same applies to you. Disagree with policy but honor the office and the person in it. It may mean that you will suffer for disagreeing, because we should never be surprised when unbelievers don’t play by our rules. But that is never an excuse for us to do anything differently from how Jesus did it.

Reba McEntire is an amazing talent and an inspiration on many levels. Please don’t take this as a personal attack on the Country and Western icon. But among the list of her many talents, theologian is probably not near the top of the list. Why do I say that? It comes as a result of reading some comments she made in a recent interview. (Reba interview) In the interview she affirms a belief in reincarnation which comes as something of a shock to most people due to her clear statements of faith in God and having grown up in the Bible Belt of America. Reba said, “People said I can’t be a Christian if I believe in reincarnation, but I always felt God loves us so much He’d want to recycle us and not just throw us away”.

There are at least two things seriously wrong with what she says. One is simple from a Biblical point of view. The other is more subtle but perhaps more profound. As to the first thing. The Bible is clear that reincarnation is not part of God’s plan. Hebrews puts it this way; Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:27,28. We don’t die and come back and die again and come back again. Just like Jesus died once, we die once.

Part of what is fascinating is that like many westerners who embrace reincarnation, Reba sees coming back again and again as a good thing. In the article she muses that maybe she is part Christian, part Buddhist. The problem is, Buddhists don’t see coming back again and again as a good thing. Just like Hinduism which also has reincarnation, they are trying to escape this life. In their system the world is nothing but pain that we are trying to escape and reach Nirvana. If you come back reincarnated it means you failed. No Buddhist wants to come back. They want to escape this reality.

The more profound part of her statement actually has to do with the implied view of God’s love and what eternity with Him would be like. Somehow the notion is expressed that once we die, we are just a throw away. Apparently it would be far more environmentally friendly on a cosmic/spiritual plane for God to “recycle” us. Like most westerners she misses the point that God does not recycle us, He redeems us. The Bible teaches that eventually Heaven and Earth will become one. God will restore creation to its intended purity and restore us to a right relationship with Him. His love for us is so vast and overwhelming that far from simply recycling us, He redeems us to be His people and to walk with Him again in the Garden.

I don’t fault Reba at all for her ideas. They are becoming more common all the time. I place the blame on those of us who claim to follow Christ. We have not understood or promoted the Biblical teaching of God’s love being a redeeming love. When we have it has only focused on being forgiven of personal sin. But redemption is so much more. All creation groans in expectation of the day when God will set things to right. It will be a day when sin, and pain, and sorrow, and suffering are no more. It will be a day of rejoicing, and dancing, and delighting in God our King. That is how much He loves us. He loves us so much that He sent His only son to redeem us and the world. He will in fact make us New Creatures and not a recycled retread.

Recently former President Jimmy Carter made the accusation that the opposition to health care reform, including the outburst by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson is motivated by racism. http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/09/15/carter.obama/index.html On the other end of the spectrum there are many who are saying that racism plays no part what-so-ever in that debate or other disagreements with the president. My strong hunch is that both positions are overstated in the extreme and as important as the particular political issues are, they are not my main concern.

What all this turmoil has done is forced me to ask the question, “Where is the Body of Christ when it comes to racism?” To put it another way, “How would the tone of American life and politics be different if the church had been consistently living out the radical biblical mandates of loving your neighbor and having a concern for the oppressed, no matter their race or ethnic background?” Maybe even more simply, how would the world be different if followers of Jesus Christ really lived and interacted with one another as if we really were the brothers and sisters in Christ that Jesus calls us to and the Bible says we are?

You need to understand that I come to this as a white guy whose family moved out of the city at the height of the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. We did it for one very clear reason; to make sure I did not have to be put on a bus to go to school with black kids. We were a part of the massive white flight migration from the city to the suburbs. Oddly enough I spent most every Saturday and most days during the summer with black people. Starting at the age of ten and for the next three years I worked at my fathers business. He owned a car dealership and I washed cars, swept the shop floor and ran errands. Most of that happened back in the shop were I worked alongside seven or eight black men and a teenager named Kenny. It was okay for me to work with them, but not go to school with them. So you can well imagine that I did not grow up in a family that was open to ethnic diversity or crossing any racial divide.

But then I came to faith in Christ and all of life began to change. One of the most dramatic changes was that in the first two years of my Christian walk I was mentored by a black man named Howard Perdue. I wrote about Howard in a previous blog. https://provocativechristian.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/provocative-obedience-the-high-cost-of-loving-jesus/ Howard not only shaped my ability to tell others about Jesus, he helped me learn to love someone very different from myself. He helped me to see the truth of what Paul said in Colossians 3:10.11 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” If you are a follower of Jesus Christ then you have a bond with every other follower of Christ. You are family together and it doesn’t matter what ethnic background you come from.

Last night I had the privilege of experiencing a bit of what Paul must have envisioned as he wrote to those first century Christians in Colossae. I was at a dinner hosted in a home of a close friend. There were ten of us around the table, five white Americans, two black Africans from Sierra Leone who have recently become U.S. citizens, a black couple from Ghana in western Africa, and a white South African who grew up in the harshest years of apartheid. For three hours we shared a meal, laughed together, prayed, wrestled with serious issues of life and in the end wondered how soon we could get back together and do it all again. I wish that the world could have had a looking glass that miraculously allowed them to peer into that dinning room and see what the Spirit of God had created.

People talk about wanting to change the world so that people will be kind to one another and get along. Jesus prayed that the world would know that we are His followers by the love we have for one another, regardless of being black, white, rich, poor, young or old. The world has never really experienced that as a widespread, long-term reality. In fact many are convinced that it is impossible. But it is not. Jesus prayed for it to be so. Last night I was blessed by it. When we cross the racial divide we show the world the power of the Gospel. We demonstrate the reality of the Holy Spirit who binds us together. That truth sounds out like a trumpet call of victory and celebration and it announces the King of Glory who is Lord over all.

Does God Need a Therapist?

Posted: September 14, 2009 in Theology thoughts

I recently got involved in an email exchange in which a gentleman asked, “Why does god have petty human emotions like jealousy and anger? History has proven that these emotions have never been good for anyone”.  A bit later in the email the writer made it clear that if God saw a therapist then He would certainly be put on medication.

Asking why God has emotions like anger and jealousy is a great question but they way this gentleman presented the question also loaded it with lots of subtle yet powerful implications. The way the question is posed practically defies anyone to try and answer it in a way that defends God’s emotions. After all, history has proven that these petty emotions are always destructive. In a way the question is not a question at all but a dare. It is a dare for anyone who would possibly consider swimming against the riptide of all history. Well, I love swimming against the tide so here goes.

First of all let’s look at jealousy and anger. Our email friend is convinced that such emotions are never good for anyone. Be careful whenever you make such a blanket statement. All it takes to refute you is one contrary example that is accepted as true. So what about anger? Is it always harmful? Are there never any times when it is good? I just read a story about a woman who rescued her toddler from the jaws of a wild animal. The animal literally had the child’s head in its mouth. The mother flew into action and beat the snot out of the animal to save her child. Do you think the mom was angry at that animal and at what was happening to her child? You bet she was and rightly so. When you hear about children getting sold into sex slavery by the millions each year, do you get angry? I hope so! Certainly you experience a flood of different emotions over such a travesty. But somewhere along the way you better be angry. There is a righteous anger and an unrighteous anger. Jesus Himself was angry at injustice. Our problem is not anger but anger at the wrong things and indifference to the suffering and pain of others.

What about jealousy? Is it ever a good thing or always bad for people? Paul makes it clear that just like there is a righteous and an unrighteous anger, there is also a godly and an ungodly jealousy. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” 2 Corinthians 2:11 Jealousy that seeks to maintain the sanctity of a relationship is a good thing. If your spouse begins to get involved with another person and you don’t have some feeling of godly jealously that seeks to preserve the relationship then you need a therapist, not the other way around. This is the same thing with God. His jealousy in the Bible is demonstrated when we break the sanctity of our relationship with Him by engaging in spiritual adultery. It is called idolatry, giving other things the place of God in our lives. God’s jealousy in that is not so much for His own needs as it is for our benefit. He knows that we are on a path to destruction and hurt when we attach ourselves to our idols. So far from being “petty”, the emotions of anger and jealousy, when expressed for godly reasons and in a godly way, are actually always good.

But that is not the only thing we need to get from the question and it’s implications. For starters, anytime someone adds a derogatory adjective, in this case the word “petty”, we need to see it for what it is worth. It is a value judgment that must be dealt with and removed from the equation. I think I have done that. Emotions in and of themselves are not wrong, what we do with them can be. Secondly, whenever someone makes a blanket and emphatic statement it is essential to dissect it and understand it. To say that history has clearly shown something to always be true is a dangerous and uninformed statement. What makes it dangerous is that it is one of those statement that will often have people shaking their heads in agreement. It sounds so informed that people dare not challenge it. As something of a student and teacher of history I can tell you that history has shown no such thing as the writer claims. One can certainly pull out examples of history in which it is correct that anger and jealousy were damaging. But there are also examples from history in which they were beneficial and necessary for the good of others.

If your Christian experience has found you in a more conservative church that focuses on people asking Jesus into their hearts then you have probably been trained that the Gospel is all about loving God and making sure you will get to heaven. If your experience is more of a church that focuses on serving the poor and needy then you have been trained that the Gospel is all about loving your neighbor and making sure that they experience a bit of heaven right here on earth. Both of those understandings of the Gospel are mutated aberrations of what the Bible really teaches.

I have seen both of these extremes in action so many times that they have almost become cartoon caricatures in my mind. On the one hand you have the folks who regularly come up with some new gimmick for telling people about Jesus. It might be a Christian version of a Rubik’s Cube or multi-colored wrist band, or a little blue booklet that you pull out of your pocket at the most inappropriate times. In some cases it is the obligatory altar call at the end of a sermon. The message may have had nothing to do with the grace of God and the church may have the same 75 people who have been coming for decades, some of whom have walked the aisle multiple times, but we must have a chance for people to pray a sinners pray and punch their ticket to heaven. No consideration is given to the trauma or pain in their lives. No attempt is made to minister to the needs of the poor and broken in order to love them to Jesus. It is all about the message and getting that prayer done.

On the other hand there are growing numbers of people who are serving the needs of the poor and broken. They are offering the cup of cold water, giving shelter the homeless, clothing to the naked, visiting the prisoner, and a host of other wonderful things. This is especially true in the under 30 crowd in Christianity, although it has a long history in the liberal branch of the faith no matter what the age. There is a lot of cool stuff going on, but what you might never hear is anyone actually telling the poor, or the prisoner, or the homeless person that they need to submit to the Lordship of Christ in their lives and follow Him. We can’t say that for fear of sounding exclusive or arrogant and we don’t want to offend anyone.

Neither of those approaches is faithful to Jesus or the Gospel that He preached. When Jesus began His public ministry he gave a very clear picture of what the Gospel is in Luke 4:17-19:

17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus said that He was sent to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel. They mean the same thing. So the Good News, the Gospel includes both speaking and doing. It is about telling people something and showing people something. You tell the poor the Good News, but you also set free those who are oppressed. It is about redemption. In the Old Testament there is a long history of the idea of redemption. It is about restoring something or someone to its rightful place. Often times people would have to sell themselves into slavery because of a financial disaster in their lives. If a relative came about bought them out of their slavery then that relative was called their kinsman redeemer. The idea was to restore the person to the completeness of what was lost. The got their lives back because someone paid a redemption price. The was certainly Good News to the slave.

Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. He paid the price for our restoration. We are restored through Christ to the relationship with the Father that was lost due to our sin. That restoration is not just about a place in Heaven with God. It is not just about having our lives in this world made better. It is both. The Gospel is holistic. The Good News is that life now and life to come are both to be changed by Christ. The implication of that for people who follow Jesus is that God cares about the spiritual and the physical. He cares about eternity and the here and now. He redeems our soul and our body. If God cares about such things then we should as well. We should be prepared to share the Gospel in word and deed. We should demonstrate the Gospel for our neighbor by showing them the love of Christ as we cloth them, feed them, house them and heal them. We should tell them of the love of Christ for them by proclaiming for them the message of liberty and freedom found in Christ.

That is the Gospel. It is not a lopsided mutation of only preaching or only serving. Jesus did both. He calls us to do both. If we serve people as He did, then like Nicodemus in John chapter 3, people will come to us. They will have been provoked to ask why we are the way we are. Then we can proclaim how we have been set free by Jesus.

Everyone Wants a Piece of Jesus

Posted: September 10, 2009 in Uncategorized

Having taught several courses on World Religions I find it fascinating that people strongly object to the Christian doctrine that Jesus is the only way to heaven. It is especially curious when you consider that other major religions have included Jesus in their systems. In some cases they seem to revere Jesus as much as, if not more than many Christians.

Islam holds Jesus in such high regard as a major prophet that it teaches that he was in fact born of a virgin. It also teaches that he DID NOT die on a cross. The reason for this is that it is believed that Allah would never allow such a revered prophet to suffer the indignity of the Cross. That is some amazing respect for Jesus.

Hinduism teaches lots of different things about Jesus. Depending on who you talk to or what you read he can be an Avatar, or incarnation of the God Vishnu. Or he might be some other form of a god come into the world. At the very least he is a spiritual master/teacher.

Buddhism also holds Jesus in high regard. Many see Jesus as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened one who instead of immediately proceeding to Nirvana, sacrificed himself by staying around on earth to show others the way to enlightenment. That is a highly revered position in Buddhism.

It is interesting that you don’t find the leaders of other religions being co-opted in this way. For instance, there is no mention that I know where Hinduism holds Mohamed in such regard. And certainly Islam has no place for Buddha as a profit. Far from it. The opposite would be the case.

So what is it about Jesus that everyone wants a piece of Him but few are willing to admit that Jesus claimed to be and is in fact, the only way to heaven? My speculation is this. The Bible tells us that God has placed within each of us an awareness of the truth. We are told that creation itself speak to us of God and His truth. 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20

Those verses make it clear that what we have done is repress the truth about who God is and gone our own way, to our own peril. But truth has a way of bubbling to the surface. I think people want a piece of Jesus because there is a recognition, deep down inside, that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But to accept that full on is too threatening, too radical, to provocative. So instead we sanitize Jesus and fit just enough of Him into our system to feel good about it.

But before you go off feeling all self righteous and holy because you haven’t done that, think again. In what ways do you fit a piece of Jesus into your life and not take all of Him full on? I know I do it in my life and I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t have at least some area in their life that they keep Jesus out. Do you like the Jesus who welcomed little children into his midst but really don’t want the Jesus who was angry in the Temple and cleared out the money changers? Maybe it is the other way around. You like the wild, forceful Jesus but have trouble with the gentle and mild side of Him. Maybe you like the Jesus who argued with the religious leaders but aren’t so keen on the Jesus who said, “take up your cross and follow me”.

You see we all can be comfortable with a piece of Jesus. But Jesus made it clear that He intends to be Lord of all. That means every nook and cranny of our lives. That means that we come under His Lordship completely and totally. It means that we love Him with our entire heart, entire mind, entire soul, and entire strength. We hold nothing back from Him, because in going to the Cross, He held nothing back from us.

“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20

If a few followers of Jesus are gathered together in His name and He is there as He promised, doesn’t that mean by definition that you have “The Church”? If the church is the ekklesia, the Greek word for those who are called, then whenever we have a few followers called out by Jesus and gathered with Him, then we have Church. Church is not about where you meet. It doesn’t matter if you are in a cathedral or a cottage, and huge auditorium or a humble home, a public community room or under a tree. The location is not church. The church is those who have been called by Jesus and gather in His name. So not only are you in church when you gather with any other believers you ARE the church when you are with another follower of Jesus.

So what does it mean of you are in church whenever you are together with other believers? It means at least a few things that come to mind. First of all it means that you are to always be about worshiping God. We usually think that we “go to church” in order to worship God. Well if you are “in church” whenever you are with one or more followers, then your actions should be worshipful. Paul tells us that when we come together, 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20). Gathering together, no matter the place or occasion,  should always be an act of worship in which our gratitude and love for the Lord comes through.

Secondly it means that we should be demonstrating the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:21,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. One of the most common excuses people use to not be a Christian is that we can’t even get along with each other. Romans 12:18 says, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone”. Being the church together means that we must, absolutely must, defer to one another, submit to one another, bless one another, guard one anothers back, and serve with and for one another.

Thirdly, if we are the church whenever we gather then we must each fulfill our part in the church. Paul speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12. HE makes it clear that each person in the Body has an important part to play. Just as the hand, eye, ear, mouth, foot and, nose all have a part to play, so every follower of Jesus has a part to play. There is no room in the Body of Christ for an appendix that can be removed without being missed. When you gather with other followers of Jesus, you are needed. Your prayers are needed. Your experiences are needed. Your song is needed. Your testimony of what God is doing in your life is needed. If you fail to bless the rest of he Body with what God is doing in you then the whole body suffers.

One way of thinking about this issue of church is this. We are not about doing church or going to church. We are about being church. Being those “called out” by Jesus to follow him everywhere, everyday. You don’t go to church any more than you go to family. You are church just as you are family.

Two weeks ago I was at a conference in Nairobi, Kenya. There were over 300 people there for the African Forum on Religion and Government. Now you may be wondering what in the world I was doing there. I suspect that some people at the conference wondered that as well. I was invited because the person who was responsible for putting on the conference actually worships at Northland’s Oviedo Campus. Since I am Northland’s Partner Coordinator for our work in South Africa I received an invitation.

Delegates were there from 32 different African nations. They included a President, a Vice President, a Minister of Foreign Affairs, a Justice Minister, a Minister of Information, and a host of other political and religious leaders from across the continent. There were also several folks from the United States, most of whom were helping with logistics for the conference. You can also pretty well guess that there were not many white faces around. In fact I think I was one of maybe a half dozen white people in the conference. And that might be an overestimate.

For three days I was keenly aware of being in a minority. I felt as if no matter what I did, I stood out and was visible. If anyone was looking for me, all they needed to say to anyone else was, “he is the white guy about six feet tall with broad shoulders”. That would have been enough to set me apart from the few other white people. When I first entered the conference I took a seat near the back. Our host then made sure that I was moved to the second row along with some dignitaries and special guests. I felt like you could have put a neon sign on me and I would not have stood out any more. Now granted some of my sense of sticking out can be attributed to the human propensity for thinking that things are about us far more than they really are. But without a doubt, as such an obvious minority, anything I did was made more visible than if I was one more of the 300 black delegates.

During the entire conference I was acutely aware of my color. And even though I was in the midst of some of the most loving and gracious followers of Jesus that I have ever met, I wanted to make sure that I was not, “that guy”. You know, “that guy” who reinforces all the negative stereotypes. I wanted to be sure that I didn’t do or say anything that could be misconstrued, be offensive or just flat out make me and all white people look like idiots. When you are a minority I think it has to impact your behavior. We know that when people are in the majority it definitely impacts their behavior, usually for the worse. Just think of a mob that is out of control.

For a long time, we followers of Jesus in the western hemisphere were able to live like the majority. There were simply more Christians than anyone else and the culture was also “Christianized”. In that position we had the opportunity to be gracious and kind to the non-Christian minority. We had the ability to love them as Jesus called us to. Or we had the ability to bully them, or ridicule them, or simply ostracize them. Sadly we usually did the later and the non-Christian minority learned to fly under the radar and avoid our judgmentalism and damnation of them and their behavior. But over time that kind of behavior on our part caused us to go from being the majority to the minority in just a few generations. The culture barely has any remaining vestiges of Christendom and people pretty much do whatever is right in their own eyes, to the point of flaunting sin and now calling it virtue. Tragically many Christians have been compelled to be even more judgmental and cry out even harsher sentences on the unbelievers. In other cases Christians have gone mute, saying nothing that would draw attention and living no differently from the culture. We do this in order to avoid conflict and ridicule and stay safe.

There was a time in our past when being the minority was the lot of every follower of Jesus. For the for the first few centuries we were the minority. But instead of heaping judgment or hiding our light under a basket, our ancestors in the faith learned to be careful about everything they did or said, not to be safe, but to point to Jesus. They understood that their every action spoke volumes. None of them wanted to be “that guy” who brought disgrace to the name of Jesus by behaving in the wrong way. They understood that they were the salt of the earth and if they lost their saltiness, then what good where they to the Lord or the world? They knew that people were watching and so every move they made needed to bring glory to Jesus and show love and grace to others.

One of my sons is regularly involved in a sports ministry that reaches out to Muslim teenagers. He told me one day, “Dad, I don’t ever need to say anything about my faith. They all know that I follow Jesus because I am not a Muslim, and so they watch everything I do to see what it means to be a Christian”. When you are a minority that is the way it is. If you are a follower of Jesus, do you know you are a minority? Even if you live in the Bible belt of America if you are following Jesus you are in the minority. The problem is, many of us are living like we are still a super-majority and we are oblivious to what our actions say to people around us. Some of us who realize that we are a minority are freaked out by that and have become shrill voices of accusation against the world. That is not what Jesus wants. Rather, I think He wants us to remember that being the minority is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate the love, grace, mercy, determination, integrity, winsomeness, and I will say it again, the love that Jesus calls us to.

Trust me, there are some people around you who know you are a Christian. They are watching you to see if it is real. They are watching you because you are a minority, you are different, you are unusual. On top of that, the hope against hope that what you have is real and might work for them. You may not know who they are but they are there. And if you live a life of grace, peace, forgiveness, contentment, self-sacrifice, and love, they will be drawn to you and will want to know the Jesus who your life glorifies.