“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.”John Atkinsonmade the point that by our behavior, we can become a stumbling block between an unbeliever and Jesus, or we can be an attraction.
The ways we behave are evidence of what we actually believe about Jesus, and unbelievers are desperate to find evidence that we don’t truly believe the gospel. Atkinson argues that unbelievers don’t have any compelling reasons not to believe; they just “feel” like there is no God.
That feeling is justified when a so-called “Christian” flies off the handle or spreads gossip. The Lord is more interested in our hearts than in our behavior, but behavior is a way of expressing belief.
Interested in Evidence?
Say, for instance, someone insists you should join a French language class with him. “You’ll love it!” Then he complains that there’s going to be somuch homework, the teacher is notoriously boring and grouchy, and you’ll learn to pronounce “croissant” like a cat spitting up a hairball.
He tells you “I’m really excited to get started!” yet confesses “I won’t actually be there half the time. That’s two-for-one appy night at the pub.” You won’t be curious to know why this person thinks learning French is important because the whole project sounds miserable and missable. Besides, this would-be promoter is a hypocrite.
Meanwhile, your pastor is planning to send missionaries to Paris, but only if they speak French. By the time you find out why language lessons were so important, it’s too late to join the class.
When we portray prayer, worship, and obedience to God as drudgery and punishment, we make Christianity sound about as alluring as a spinal tap. And we aren’t telling the truth about who he is either.
This is one way that we lead people astray, which makes God very angry. Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mathew 18:6).
Who are “these little ones”? They are Christians of any age who have a faith, which is “not strong enough to resist all attack,” one preacherwrote.
Leaving a Pleasant Odor
Imagine a different person urges you to attend French class, but this individual is bubbling over with excitement because he has actually gone to the classes and knows what the teacher is really like. “He’s friendly and his accent is beautiful. He sets up a ‘café’ and we order food in French. Then, we eat croissants and brie. It’s so much fun! It’s not too late to join!” That sounds like a great time, I’d want to learn French on the strength of that recommendation!
We are the “aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) to God, to the unsaved, and to each other. There are bad smells such as hypocrites who speak as though they know Jesus, but they’ve barely touched their Bibles.
There are smelly, legalistic Christians who pounce on every tattoo, piercing, and heavy metal playlist declaring “you’re going to hell!” There are also good scents, which entice and attract, such as the person who spends less time talking and more time listening.
Have you ever met someone who makes you feel as though you are seen and heard? She looked you in the eye and asked questions that revealed how closely she was listening. “What do you think is the hardest part about learning a new language? How do you manage to finish homework with two little kids at home? Say something in French!”
Who was this person? Her fragrant scent has lingered in your mind and you want to know what makes her different from most other people you meet.
Lasting Legacy of Faith
Christians sometimes leave a positive impression on strangers, but we are also urged by the example of Christ to be consistent as we engage with co-workers, friends, and family on a regular basis.
Our typical behavior informs the abiding impression (or aroma) we leave; it’s our lasting legacy. “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).
In those early days following his conversion, amidst the disciples who lived what they believed, Paul heard and saw and felt “the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19).
They weren’t perfect people; the disciples were real human beings who struggled with sin. But their testimony consistently pointed to the grace and glory of God, and it withstood unspeakable suffering the way a house of stone endures bad weather, guarding everyone who finds shelter there.
Seeing Blood in the Dark
I love forensic crime investigation documentaries. They often depict investigators spraying surfaces with a special chemical then turning out the lights, or just using a special “black light” to detect blood.
Blood is easily washed off of some surfaces so that no one visiting a murder scene would see it at first. In broad daylight, the crime is hidden.
Turn out the lights, however, and a story of death appears, which, in our case, brings new life. Yet, in times of suffering, as the old song goes “there’s power in the blood.”
Jesus’ blood would have stained the wood as he carried his cross to Calvary and while he hung, nailed to that same cross. He was gory and sticky from the scourging that preceded his crucifixion.
He would have left bloody footprints on the road and bloody handprints on the shoulder of anyone who supported his staggering frame. He left a legacy of blood, one which is difficult to see in the daylight.
Wherever his followers go, traces of Christ’s blood should be left behind, but they might not be easy to detect when times are good. Hope for eternity is most profoundly exposed in the dark.
It is the power of faith while we suffer if we can suffer with our eyes on Jesus, or, when we emerge, marked but whole, still confident in our Savior.
A watching world might observe those stains at the time of our struggles, or they might remember them whentheysuffer. How we portray Christ when our days are dark reveals what we truly believe about God and how our beliefs enable us to handle bad weather.
A crisis hits, and an unbeliever recalls how that “churchy” person — what’s-her-face — handled suffering. “When she talked about Jesus, I dismissed her as a kook.
Then, remember when that terrible thing happened to her? I couldn’t believe how much peace she found in her faith. I thought it was weird, but now I want what she has because I’m losing my mind.”
Perhaps the marks of faith are hard to see until another believer points them out. “Why was what’s-her-face so calm?” “It’s the peace she gets from knowing God is in control and he loves her.” “That sounds ridiculous. How can anyone feel calm when they think a dictator is controlling their life?” And now a conversation has started, perhaps the first of many.
Breath of Fresh Air
I don’t want to trivialize pain. Nor do I want to oversimplify the process of faith life. Between saying “yes” to Jesus and going to be with him for eternity there is a lifetime of growing in faith and learning how to deal with pain in ways, which are authentic and faithful.
Christians aren’t robots. But I’ve seen both extremes: the person who holds onto anger and the person who finds joy. “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Proverbs 29:22).
Meanwhile, we can rejoice if “the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
The marks of his glory left by his followers led me down a bloody yet aromatic path to freedom in Christ. I really, really want to be one of those path builders.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.