In our church, whoever preaches writes up a little devotional for further study and reflection. Here is my last sermon and the devotional that goes with it.
There is this brutal reputation Americans have overseas. If you talk with people from Europe or Asia or South America, they almost all have the same impression of American tourists. You know it, "THE UGLY AMERICAN." We are loud, obnoxious, clumsy, rude, and entitled.
Now, I am sure when you travel, you are none of these things. But whether or not you are, people's first posture towards you is most likely girding themselves up to deal with the ugly American. It is a witness that makes traveling less fun for those of us who enjoy cross-cultural travel.
Whether we realize it or not, we are a witness. Our being is forming or conforming a brand for someone else. The way we live is a witness to our nationality, to our school, to our business, to our political party, and mostly to our faith. We are not natural wanderers. We tell a story with our very existence, so we need to take the most of every opportunity.
The biggest bummer is that right now Christians have a terrible reputation. We are judgemental, hypocritical, and are linked up with political leaders. It is a brutal time for us. I get that Christians believe some strange things, but those strange things are supposed to inform us and transform us to be Christ's witnesses. We are supposed to be people who belong to Jesus and reflect on his characteristics.
If we are honest, think over the life of Christ and what marked his life. Our first thought is usually his tough words for the religious leaders. Righteous anger has been our marker. And it turns out that righteous anger combined with poor character doesn't sell well. And our reputation is the fruit.
Rather Jesus' life was really marked by integrity, strength, grace, generosity, mercy, compassion, and, wait for it, suffering.
Imagine the difference this sort of witness would make. Imagine if our reputation was that we believe strange things about this Jesus guy, but they sure our generous and kind, willing to give up their resources, their hearts, and even their lives for the weakest and poorest in our communities. If we were hated because of that, I would take that as a badge of honor.
How would the people in your world describe your faith based on your witness? What would they say your core values are? Would their list be close to the lists of things we find in scripture?
How can you put yourself in a posture to allow Jesus to prune you a bit so that your life and faith are integrated in such a way as for your to truly be a witness of the grace and mercy of Christ?
This is a brutal call, a difficult gut check. Thankfully Jesus is kind and long-suffering and doesn't seem to pour out his righteous anger on us. So let us embrace his grace, get back on our feet and allow the Holy Spirit more access to our heart and to our lives, so that we can truly be a witness of our Lord, Jesus Christ.