What does a Christian look like?
Lots of people are asking this question lately.
Is it a matter of belief? Do you look like a Christian because of what you say you believe? Or do you look like a Christian because of how you behave?
Yes and no.
Christians do believe in Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus died on a cross and rose again on the third day. They also believe that Jesus’ death matters and his resurrection means even more. Jesus by his death entered into human sinfulness and bore the penalty for that sin. Jesus by his resurrection defeated the power of death which comes by sin. This we believe.
But there is more!
In his letter to his fellow believers, Saint Peter outlines some of the behaviors that should characterize those who call themselves Christians. (See I Peter 3:8-17).
General characteristics of Christians:
Be of one mind, that is, seek the unity of the faithful. If you are a follower of Jesus, your fellow followers are not your enemies. Will we agree on every fine point of doctrine, no, but we do not curse each other, instead we will live with
“Sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind toward each other” (I Peter 3:8).
Reflect on these qualities.
We all have burdens and struggles that need the sympathy of another one. If we say we love God, yet we do not love our fellow follower of Jesus, then the love of God is not really in us. Tenderness is the ability to be open toward each other’ struggles and hurts. We can all learn from each other so let us be of a humble mind.
Peter goes on this letter to talk about how we relate to those who wrong us or do evil toward us. The old way was an eye for an eye. The new way is to bless those who do you wrong. When you and I bless those who wrong us, we pay it forward: we are blessed. Peter quotes from Psalm 34. The Psalmist adds another reason to seek peace: God will hear our prayers. God is looking for people who will be peacemakers. When we are peacemakers, we reflect the true character of God. We look like God; we bear a family resemblance of our Heavenly Father.
There is another reason to live as person of peace: It will drive people crazy and they will be asking you how you can be a person of peace in the middle of the insanity around you. You and I should live our lives so that our lives leave question marks in their mind. Why does she always smile in the middle of her pain? How does he keep on going with a smile when there are so many wrong things happening?
Many years ago I worked with a principal at a school whose life was overwhelmed with challenges. Besides being responsible for about a staff of 30 and a student body of about 120 each day, she went home to care for a disabled husband and a mother with progressive Alzheimer’s. I asked her, “How do you do this?” She quickly said, “Because of Him. Christ in me helps me.” She lived her life as a question mark for those around her.
I found this reading on the internet yesterday:
"Do you know, do you understand that you represent Jesus to me?
Do you know, do you understand that when you treat me with gentleness, it raises in my mind that maybe he is gentle too? Maybe he isn't someone who laughs when I am hurt.
Do you know, do you understand that when you listen to my questions and you don't laugh, I think, "What if Jesus is interested in me, too?"
Do you know, do you understand that when I hear you talk about arguments and conflict and scars from your past that I think, "Maybe I am just a regular person instead of a bad, no-good, little girl who deserves abuse?"
If you care, I think maybe he cares--- and then there's this flame of hope that burns inside of me, and for a while I am afraid to breathe because it might go out.
Do you know, do you understand that your words are his words? Your face, his face to someone like me?
Please be who you say you are, please, God, don't let this be another trick. Please let this be real. Please, do you know, do you understand that you represent Jesus to me?
"Please be who you say you are. Amen."
(This was shared as a message at Oasis for the Nations, Phoenix, AZ, October 23, 2016.)