Do you realize that you’re being watched? At work. At school. In your neighborhood. At social events with your friends. At the grocery store and in the PTA meeting. At your kids’ sporting events. Maybe even at home.
No, I’m not talking about some Big Brother conspiracy. I’m simply pointing out the fact that people outside the Christian faith often have a front row seat to your life. And whether you realize it or not, what they see contributes to their view of what it means to believe in and follow Christ.
Now, if you’re like me, this is a bit unnerving. I’m not always the best representative of the Christian faith in my words and actions. On the other hand, it’s also a tremendous opportunity. Why? Because people often need to see that faith in Christ “works” in real life before they will consider embracing it for themselves. Seeing people they know living out their faith with integrity and winsomeness can provide motivation and vision for them to do the same.
And this leads me to three important points:
1. We should take our role as representatives of the Christian faith seriously. In the first place, this means that we simply need to be conscious of it on a regular basis. Rather than unthinkingly participating in all the situations I mentioned at the top of the post, we need to remember that, like it or not, we’re doing so specifically as Christians. And secondly, we’ll need a regular outpouring of God’s grace to shape our lives into something that others will find attractive. Step one should probably be that we consistently pray toward that end.
2. Our lives should look similar to those around us in important ways. As Tim Keller writes in Center Church, “Christians must be like their neighbors in the food they eat and clothes they wear, their dialect, general appearance, work life, recreational and cultural activities, and civic engagement. They participate fully in life with their neighbors. Christians should also be like their neighbors with regard to excellence. That is, Christians should be very good at what others want to be good at. They should be skillful, diligent, resourceful, and disciplined. In short, Christians in a particular community should — at first glance — look reassuringly similar to the other people in the neighborhood. This opens up nonbelievers to any discussion of faith, because they recognize the believers as people who live in and understand their world. It also, eventually, gives them a glimpse of what they could look like if they became believers.”
3. Our lives should look different from those around us in important ways. Keller goes on to point out that, in some ways, Christians shouldn’t blend in. Aspects of their lives should stick out. They should be known for their honesty and generosity. They should treat their co-workers—even the difficult ones—with kindness and respect. They should forgive those that slight or otherwise mistreat them. They’ll rightly value the gift of sex by enjoying it exclusively within the context of marriage. And so on. Again, this will take a lot of grace. But in the end, it’s the kind of life that others will find attractive, the kind of life that Jesus spoke about when he said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).