Do we as Christians really stop to think about how we are representing God? Have you ever thought about how the things we do and say affect non-Christians? Sure, we all worry about what our Christian friends and acquaintances think about the things we say and do, but how often do we really think about how non-believers view us?
In fact, what we do and say affects the non-Christians around us far more than it does the Christians. Pastor Lee Strobel said one of the most profound things I have ever heard. I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember the exact quote, "for those of us who calls ourselves Christians, we need to know that the hypocrisy meter is scanning our lives." In other words, those who have chosen not to believe are looking for us to fail so they can justify their non-belief. Think about the responsibility that is inherent in that statement. Do we really understand that we can be either good or bad ambassadors for Christ simply by the words we speak or the way we live our lives?
One thing I have learned about the lost is that unlike Christians, they really don't know why they believe what they believe. Of course there are some exceptions, but I have found that in most cases non-believers just believe what they believe because that's what they believe. They believe it because they feel it, which makes it real for them. As Christians we have a core and a foundation for our beliefs. Our beliefs are based on faith, but there is also a mass of evidence (scientific, archaeological, historical etc.) to support the existence of God. On the other hand your non-believing friends have nowhere to go to support their belief system. With nowhere else to go, they look for us to give them a reason to deny God. They will grab at anything they can because they need it.
Have you noticed that every time someone claims to find some incredible new evidence that the Bible is wrong; every media outlet in the world jumps on the bandwagon and automatically portrays it as proven truth? When that happens, non-believers hang onto every word and believe it without evidence because they need to. However, those kinds of things don't happen very often so where are non-believers looking for something to hold onto? They are looking at us! They take notice of how we act and what we say, and they hang on to our failures to help justify their non-belief. Think about it for a minute, every time a Christian says something they shouldn't have said, the media jumps on it like a pack of crazed animals. Our words and actions have consequences, and when we fail, God gets the blame and non-believers have a heyday.
We need to remember that we are walking, talking representatives for Jesus. What do you think a non-believer thinks about that one off-color joke we tell in the break room at work? What about using that same break room to criticize another Christian or another church? What about that one crude word we still use because we have decided it's acceptable even though it's questionable? What about that one time we rip someone to shreds because we couldn't control our anger? What about Christians that use the media to criticize other Christians publicly? We've all been guilty of these things, but we need to think about how these things affect the non-believers who hear them. We need to try to represent God as best we can, so we don't give the non-believers more reasons than already exist to hang their hats on. Non-believers should be able to look at us and wonder what it is we have, and how they can get it.
One of the greatest sins I could ever engage in, is doing something that could give my non-believing brother fuel for his choice to not believe in God. I have a brother that I love with all my heart and soul, and I respect and admire him immensely. He is also a good man with a good heart who lives a good and respectful life. He is a devoted husband, son, and uncle. But my brother doesn't believe in God. Nothing in my life is more important than seeing him begin a search for the truth. Will that ever happen? I don't know but what I do know is this, I don't ever want me to be the stumbling block that keeps him from spending eternity in heaven with the rest of our family. So I will try to make sure that the words that come out of my mouth, the acts the represent the way I live my life, and the love that flows from my relationship with Jesus are the things that he will look at and hopefully someday begin to wonder about. I can't make his choices for him, but what I can do is make sure that my choices represent my God in a positive and loving way.
This personal to me, but it should be personal to all of us because we're all brothers and sisters in Christ and our most important role on this earth is to find ways to bring those who don't believe to a relationship with Jesus. If we can't control the words that come out of our mouths, and the way we live our lives, then we won't ever be able to represent God the way he deserves to be represented.
1 Peter 2:5 says, "And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple; what's more, you are God's holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ" (NLT).
Jesus spoke directly about our responsibility to represent him in Matthew 5:16 when he said, "In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father" (NLT).
We need to let our good deeds shine out for all to see, but we also need to recognize that our bad deeds are out there shining for the world to see too. The non-believers around us are watching our bad deeds far more closely than our good deeds. We owe it to Jesus to do the best we can to honor his sacrifice, and we need to recognize that the lost of the world are watching to see how were doing.
—John Atkinson is a pastor at Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi Texas. This adapted article and others like it can be found at http://www.pastorjohnatkinson.com.