This past presidential campaign nearly made me ill. Seeing Christians spew out unverified rumors, innuendoes, sarcasm, threats, blatant disrespect, and just plain nastiness, all in the name of standing for the truth, appalled me. I wondered what our first century brethren might have thought about the whole thing.
Did you know that first century Christians in a world even meaner than ours (though by less and less everyday), often gave themselves away because they did exactly what no one expected them to do? They were kind to those they disagreed with, including idolaters. They assisted and served those in need, even those who would later turn them in for being Christians—an illegal activity. Scorn, ridicule and disdain were not a part of their vocabulary or lifestyle. They were different because they followed a Savior who was different, one who "when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to him who judges righteously," 1 Pet 2:23. THAT is what it means to be different.
If you have been struggling to conform yourself to that image, maybe it's time for a little more effort. You may have finally learned to speak kindly, even to the unkind and unfair among us, when it is face to face. But how are you doing when it is not a "person" but a car you are railing at, or worse? How do you do when it's a faceless voice on the phone? How does your pen react when some impersonal corporation has treated you unfairly? How does your keyboard click when you are posting a diatribe against whatever political side you deem evil at the moment? In all those cases, someone—an actual person--is noticing how you behave, even when you think your identity is hidden. Think about it for a minute—Facebook posts your name and picture at the top of every one of those angry posts.
We recently did some painting in the house. I went to the paint department of the local home improvement store, picked out a color card and handed it to the man to mix my paint. When the paint went up on the wall, I was sure it was darker than the card I had chosen. But when I laid that card up against the wall, it completely disappeared—it was exactly the same color. It blended right in. Sometimes we are nothing more than a color card at the paint store.
I am supposed to be different from the average Joe, even the relatively good citizen out there. I am supposed to act (not react) as a follower of my Lord. I am supposed to be willing to suffer wrong or even loss to show that difference.
If being a Christian does become illegal someday in this country, I should be giving myself away by my kind words, by my willingness to yield rather than argue, and by my acts of compassion even to those who do not deserve it. I am not supposed to be blending in with all the other pagans, disappearing like a color card from the paint store into a wall of humanity who are a perfect match.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1Pet 2:11-12)