During one of my visits to California last year, my friend and I were driving past a location that they’d considered for their church. The deal-breaker, it turned out, was the asking price for the meeting space.
It was an astronomical figure — into six digits per month — for rent.
When he told me the figure, I did a double take, but didn’t say anything. He immediately chuckled at me.
“You almost cussed.”
I reminded him, jokingly, that I work in television, and that it doesn’t really take that much. But I realized that I’d been subconsciously trying to edit myself when I was around him. I’ve heard him use only one word that might be considered a cuss word. When he gets upset, he doesn’t launch into a stream of expletives.
The more I started thinking about it, though, the more I began to wonder if it wasn’t other people — some of those I work with, for instance — who I was really changing for. If an act is being put on by me, maybe that’s where it’s happening.
But the important point is this: a Christian is always being watched by those who know he’s a Christian. The way he handles problems, the way he deals with other people, even small things are subject to scrutiny. “What would Jesus do?” Ideally, the same thing His followers are doing right now. If, that is, we’re living the kind of life we’re supposed to be living.
Any time my newsroom does a story on a clergyman who gets accused of a crime, we’ll get a complaint or two from a few of the more overly-religious in the viewing area who accuse of us of trying to be unfair to believers. Sports heroes like Tiger Woods never mind being regarded as role models when things are going well. But let them make a misstep and the first thing you’ll hear from any of them is, “I never asked to be a role model.”
Christ followers should, by definition, be role models. That’s a sobering thought when I pause to look back at my own mistakes. But as I told a friend of mine the other day, I don’t think God defines us by our mistakes but rather by our efforts to avoid them.
Each week, I have coffee with another close friend. Each week, just before we part ways for the week, he prays with me. One of the things he almost always asks God for is the strength for both of us not to do anything that would compromise our testimony. Our testimony is who we are because of who God is in us.
God’s always watching. But so are those around us. God isn’t waiting to pounce on us when we slip. But the same thing isn’t always true for those who are looking for any reason to criticize.
I think we need to work on giving them less ammunition.