“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. (NLT)
Question: If you were brought to trial on the charge of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to find you guilty?
Interesting question isn’t it? Most of us would say “Yes, of course.” And we’d be right. If one calls him or herself a Christian who has the right to say “prove it!” Well… Maybe the world does.
It’s not easy or popular to be a Christian on 2013 Earth. Media moguls, Hollywood types, and lots of other religions routinely persecute Christians and Christianity. And the world doesn’t bat an eye.
Christian bashing has become somewhat of an art-form. In the early 1990’s I attended a few Promise Keepers conferences here in Boulder and the demonstrations, signs (both hand-held & aerial), posters, banners and placards that were professionally and tastelessly designed, were visible for all to see.
Shouts of hypocrites, homophobes, women-haters, child-abusers and worse were hurled at the 50,000+ Christian men and boys who quietly and courteously filed into and out of the stadium each day. Men who were attending an event, designed to help them become better husbands, better fathers, better neighbors and better Christians had to endure insults and religious slurs that other groups would have responded to by fighting and rioting.
Not one Christian man or boy was arrested for retaliating. We didn’t have to be told to “turn the other cheek”, although event organizers reminded us of that several times, just in case someone felt an uncontrollable urge to kick the rear-end of some folks who were there specifically to provoke such a reaction. Or so it seemed.
Personally, I struggle constantly with the “turn the other cheek” thing. My natural instinct is to fight back, with fists, if that’s what the situation calls for. I especially boil when non-christian media types blame everything from global warming to GMOs and drought on Christian men and women. But as a follower of Jesus, I have to “let it go.”
The world doesn’t see and the media doesn’t cover the too numerous to mention acts of love carried out by Christians all over the world on a daily basis. And do you know why?
Well one reason is the media wouldn’t cover that kind of stuff and two – these acts of love and kindness are supposed to go unnoticed.
Matthew 6: 1-2
1 “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get.
Here’s the thing about being a Christian. We’re supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Not to brag or puff up when we help an old man across the street. Why? Because as followers of Jesus – that’s the way it is. Can’t handle it? Well…
The hardest part of trying to follow Jesus is He set the love bar impossibly high. Remember Jesus on the cross. He called out and said, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.” It that had been me up there, I’d be screaming, “Father, get me down from here and let’s go crack some skulls!”
The other double-whammy of Christianity is this… We are natural born sinners, trying not to be. Temptation stalks us relentlessly. We pray for strength to overcome our tendencies to be less that perfect or even cordial. But we come up short time and time again. That’s not a matter of conjecture. It’s fact! And that’s why we need a savior.
I can just see the devil and his team of demons plotting. “Let’s see what new and really frustrating things we can come up with to get Mount Saint Francis to erupt today.” They don’t have to plot for long. I’m an easy mark.
So what’s an imperfect guy or gal to do? Well, let’s see. Maybe pray???
Perhaps read the Bible??? Hook up with other Christians and support each other in our walk???
The thing about being a Child of God is – were not supposed to act like children. At least not on a mature level. We’re supposed to turn the other check, forgive, forget and move on. But as we all know – it’s much easier said than done.
So what to do? Give in to the temptation to throw down? Unleash a barrage of profanity laced insults? Stuff another resentment into our I’ll put this away for now, but I’m keeping my options open on bringing it out again at a later date when you least expect it suitcase?
Or? Or? Should we forgive and truly forget? Apologize and ask for forgiveness, especially from God. And vow to make today the day that we truly exhibit the characteristics of being a Christian?
Quick story to close: Several years ago I had season tickets for the Colorado Rockies. One day, I’m driving to the game with 3 friends in the car with me. I’m thinking, “Wait til they see my seats. Field level. Right behind Home Plate. Won’t they think I’m cool? Well, God had a lesson in humility waiting for me at the stadium.
As I drove up near the front of Coors Field there is, as usual a massive crowd of people walking to the game. The traffic is crazy and at one intersection, there’s a cop directing traffic and doing his best to prevent an encounter between man and metal beast.
Now the traffic lights are turned off and this man is doing his thing as best he can, standing in the middle of the intersection in 95* heat. Well, I arrived at just the right moment to test his patience.
I was stopped as he was allowing pedestrians to cross. When I could have sworn he motioned for me to drive through. I started to depress the accelerator when he blew his whistle and at the top of his lungs screamed – STOP!
He then ran over to my car, got right in my face and yelled something like, “I told you to stop. When I say stop that means stop and you don’t move until I tell you to – you got that?” On and on he goes, berating me at full volume not 3 inches from my face. And all this is taking place in front of my 3 friends and about 20,000 people on the street.
I’m totally embarrassed, so in a instant I blurt out, “You told me to move forward!” That was like pouring gasoline on his already white hot fire. So the cop screams “ Shut up. Shut the heck up! You say one more word, one more word I’ll split your head and drag you to jail.”
In a nano-second Mt Saint Francis, Mr. Christian is on the verge of a major eruption. I mean, I am blind with rage for this guy. He’s dissing me in front of my tribe and all these onlookers. Many of whom are getting out their smartphones to record this cop stomping me into the hot pavement.
But inside this nano-second of time, another voice breaks through. It says just a few words…
“Ballgame? Or jail? Ballgame? Or jail?”
It takes me years to learn a lesson. But on that beautiful summer night, God came to my rescue. He doused my fire. And somehow, His words – not mine flew out of my mouth.
“I’m sorry Officer!” — I’d say that was hard to say, but the words came out so fast I didn’t have time to think about what I was saying. Next thing I knew the veins in the cops neck receded. The roar of his voice subsided and he mumble something like, “Get your sorry butt outta here.”
I drove ever so slowly through the intersection and was soon sitting in my seat behind home plate watching a Rockies game. A bag of peanuts in one hand. An ice cold beverage in the other. And a lesson in the rewards of humility firmly planted in my brain.
So where am I going with all this? I guess where I’m going is to God. I’m asking for His guidance. His strength and His humility. Left to my own devices (limited as they are.) I will exhibit very few characteristics of a Christian. I’m trying. I’m learning. And best of all – I’m getting a little bit better everyday. And I think that’s a good thing.
Lord, help me to be a better Christian. Help me to not just talk the part, but to live the part as well. Help me to be more like you with each passing nano-second. Lord, I know I’m not perfect. I’m a little bruised and battered, and that’s okay. But don’t allow me to use that as an excuse when I fail to show others my Christian heart. Let me be slow to anger and quick to say “I’m sorry officer! Oh, and if you can do anything to help the Rockies, that would be good too.