The other day I sat with a lady who told me an all too familiar tale. Her daughter had married a man who called himself a believer but did not go to Church. As my inquiry of the situation continued, she told me about how this man was wonderful and kind and giving but did not have time for other religious people. Then came the story about how he grew up in the foster care system. He was placed in a family who claimed to be a Christian family but showed no signs of it outside of Sunday morning. They were mean, manipulative, and very uncaring for this man throughout his formative years. The big word he put on these people was simply hypocrites.
I wish I could tell you that this is the first time I heard this sordid tale of a family who claimed to follow Jesus, but I would be lying. These allegations have been leveled against believers for as long as I have been in ministry. It is always the same tale, “I have no faith or little need for the Church because of some people who demonstrated their faith as a charade.” It was played out every Sunday morning for the community for whatever reason, and this person saw behind the veil.
My response to those stories is usually the same. First, I express my sorrow over what they experienced. I remind them that people are flawed, and there have been religious charlatans since the beginning, and even Jesus has a Judas. Second, I tell them that not all people are like what they think. There are some wonderful, deeply committed people who attend the Church and live out their faith with a high level of commitment. They love, give, and are a blessing to the world. Third, I remind them that their faith should never be placed in people. Jesus died for our sins, and if you set your sights on anything less, you will be disappointed. I point out that frustration with people is not the same as disappointment with God. Finally, I tell them that they can be different. Their faith does not have to be a mask they paint on for Sunday morning; they can be a shining example to others. The failures they experienced in others does not need to be repeated by them. It can be the motivation to live authentically for Jesus.
I have never converted anyone through this one conversation, but hopefully, I have opened their eyes to some new possibilities, and over time they may walk a new path.
Today, I want to flip this whole thing over and remind you of the importance of your life. If you attend a Church or call yourself a believer, you have been placed on a pedestal and are being watched by others. You may not have asked for this responsibility or even like it, but it happens despite your approval. What you do Sunday afternoon through Saturday night is making an impact for the kingdom of God. The words you use, the attitudes you display, the beverages you consume, the way you treat others, the conversations you have, and on and on, speak volumes about what you really believe to others.
You are having an impact for the kingdom of God. Is your impact positive or negative? I pray that one day I do not have to sit down with your kids or coworkers and have them talk about having to overcome a terrible Christian experience with you.