I’ve got a bit of a dilemma going on in my head.
The other day I read one of the e-devotions that I have signed up to receive in my inbox. This one talked about a lady who wanted to get one of those ‘fish’ symbols put on her family’s cars but wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do since she can be a frustrated driver. She wasn’t sure the image of a Christian swinging her fist at someone who had just cut her off would represent Christ well.
We aren’t marked or branded outwardly when we become followers of Christ. People don’t usually know unless you tell them. Perhaps this is why some of us feel it’s alright to go off the deep end every once in a while. I doubt we’d be willing to chastise our kids in public if we had the words, “Jesus Loves Me” tattooed on our foreheads. I doubt we’d be reckless drivers or fail to watch our tongues if a giant beam of light from heaven poured down on us day and night. We would have this constant awareness that we’re being watched and that our God is being judged by the world in the process.
As Christians, we want to represent Christ in a way that draws people closer to Him. We don’t want our actions or words to interfere in someone trusting that God is good. On Sunday mornings, we do our hair, plaster on some face paint, get all dolled up and then roll into the church parking lot as if we haven’t a care in the world. We are respectful and willing to help out if a need arises. We are surrounded by Christians who know how we are supposed to act, and so we play that role with the best of them. Perhaps by lunch on Sunday afternoon, we’ve tired of playing the role and have reverted back into our normal routine of being easily frustrated and short with our family members. Perhaps we are a bit too eager to get home so that we can get out of our ‘Sunday Best’ and into some stained sweats and a ripped up t-shirt to watch the big game in, and so we speed down the road, annoyed with anyone who may be in our way. Perhaps we’re a bit better than that, and our façade doesn’t fade until the Monday morning traffic crunch or during that first big meeting of the week.
It’s exhausting wearing a mask. So instead of doing that, how about changing our lives to better represent our faith and the One who saves us? Wouldn’t it be better if following God’s commands and loving each other as He loves us happened so often in our lives that it became a natural reaction instead of a forced, once-a-week act?
Ok, onto my dilemma. In trying to represent Christ, do we inadvertently keep others at a distance? I know that before I was a believer, I would see Christians wearing their ‘masks’ and looking perfectly loving, and then I’d see them in a different venue, revealing their true colors. I thought they were hypocrites, and I didn’t want anything to do with that dual lifestyle. Then there were some Christians who were always ‘on,’ always representing Christ well. Because they were so much better behaved than I, they didn’t feel approachable or real. They almost seemed too good to be true. I even half expected them to snap at any moment because people just aren’t that well put together. I couldn’t compete, that was for sure. I didn’t feel like I was good enough. If I had to be THAT well behaved and refined, I wasn’t so sure I could be a Christian. And so I avoided even trying for a long time.
So which is better? To put on the mask when we feel others are watching so that we can appear “changed?” Or should we throw away the masks altogether and allow others to see that we struggle with our lives too? Obviously, I won’t be able to advocate being fake and wearing a mask, but can we represent God well while we’re still so wretched? I know that it would’ve made it easier for me to approach someone who seemed to also be having a hard time with life circumstances, but I don’t know if I would’ve been able to see that faith in their God was worth it. If they had faith and were struggling still, well, what exactly was their faith doing for them? Where was the payoff? They call Him their Savior, so why didn’t it seem like they were saved? I’ve now learned that becoming a believer doesn’t mean we will automatically be spared of pain in this life. We are saved from the eternal consequences of our sins, not necessarily the present ones. I know this now, but before I really knew what the Christian life was about, I wouldn’t have been able to tell.
What message are we projecting about God when we sometimes act graceful, but not all the time? And what are we showing people about God when we’re too well put together and un-reachable? And what do our actions and words say about God when we are visibly struggling with our lives? I know that if we remain faithful during our trials, that it speaks volumes to non-believers. I know that when we act like a human being and not a plastic superhero, fellow humans will be more likely to trust us and ask us questions. I know that if we act like a hypocrite, others won’t trust our word or our God.
Our goal is to become holy like God is holy. That means set apart from the rest of the world. People need to notice that there’s something different about us, something that they are lacking, that they need. If we blend in too well, people won’t be able to see God’s hand in our lives. But if we become too detached, too high and mighty for our own britches, people won’t feel comfortable around us. As it is, we all have a hard time just accepting grace from our Creator without earning it first. After all, we KNOW what we are capable of; we KNOW the sins we’ve committed. We don’t need to make it harder for non-believers by suggesting that they need to be packaged ‘just-so’ in order to approach God. People need to know that we Christians are still living on the same planet as they are, with the same struggles with which they are dealing. They just need to also see that our faith helps us when life gets tough, that there isn’t a problem that God can’t help us through. That we are able to face whatever life throws at us because we believe God is who He says He is and that He has a plan for our lives on earth and in eternity.