Encouragement From The Word

Who are you when no one’s looking?

I once heard character defined as ‘who you are when no one is looking.’ I think it’s a pretty apt definition! Our character is, like a watermark on a sheet of paper, an indelible part of who we are in every part of our lives, every day. At a basic level, our character defines us; it defines us more than our family heritage, more than our vocation, and more than our possessions.

This is true of everyone, not just those who follow Jesus. But it is perhaps especially true of Jesus-followers, since we know that our lives cannot be compartmentalized. We cannot be Christians, with the character that involves, on Sunday morning, and something else the rest of the week. It doesn’t work that way. In reality, no one can be one thing at one point and something else another time, and maintain any sense of integrity. Even a chameleon, which can change colours to blend in with its environment and fool predators, is still a chameleon; it doesn’t become a rock, like the one on which it is perched when it changes colour.

I’ve wanted to avoid using this illustration, but I am compelled. The Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, who checked himself into a rehabilitation clinic yesterday, consistently said – after being forced to admit to crack cocaine use – that what he did in his private life did not affect his work as the Mayor of Canada’s largest city.

I willingly admit that I did, at one time, have a fair degree of sympathy for Mr. Ford, but once he started saying things like that, he lost my sympathy and gained my pity. When a human being believes he can be one kind of person with one group of people and another kind of person with another group, there is a disconnect that indicates a loss of grasp on one’s own personal reality.

Frankly, it’s a lot easier to be the same person irrespective of who you hang around with; there’s nothing to hide, and no one is surprised to see you in any other context, because who you are at the root of your character dictates what decisions you will make and what actions you will take.

As a follower of Jesus, does that describe you? Are you a Christian when you drive? When you work? When you hang around with your friends? When you invest?

To be sure, none of us is going to get it all right, all the time; perfection for us is reserved for God’s eternal Kingdom. But the hope is that each of us, as we follow and serve the Lord, will become more like Jesus every day, maintaining consistent character, being known as a follower of Jesus wherever we go and whatever we do. It’s a growth process; let’s be growing in the right direction. Remember the Golden Rule?

Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6.31, NIV).

Good, consistent Christian character goes a long way toward fulfilling it.

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Encouragement From The Word

Who makes headlines in your life?

Sometimes, I’m amazed at how shallow news reporting has become.  Yesterday, there were two stories that made top headlines on radio and justin-biebertelevision news where I live:  the arrest of Justin Bieber in Florida for driving while intoxicated and street racing, and the delay of a speech to be given by the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, because he was stuck in a hotel service elevator for 45 minutes.

To certain demographic groups, these were important stories:  namely, teenaged girls and elevator repair personnel (and maybe Toronto city hall reporters).  Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, real, life-altering stories continued to unfold.  Protests in the Ukraine which may lead to a coup d’état are taking place; and the slaughter of innocent civilians in the civil war in Syria persists.  There are countless other atrocities taking place across the globe in these days, but we find ourselves concerned with celebrities instead.

Attempts were made to create a celebrity of Jesus.  Folks wanted him to make headlines in whatever was the version of the Jerusalem Post in the first century.  But he would have none of it.  He wasn’t into self-glorification.

Yet the irony is that Jesus was the only person ever to walk this earth who had every right to glorify himself!  He was God in the flesh, for heaven’s sake (and for ours)!  Who better to bring glitz and glamour to the realm of faith than the fully human, fully divine God-man Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ?

But Jesus didn’t come to be part of a stage show.  He came to unveil the Kingdom of God.  It would take many pages to explain (in our own limited way) what it means to unveil the Kingdom of God.  But Jesus came to do just that.

Yet, even in the first century, people preferred sizzle to steak.  People followed Jesus everywhere he went, but most of them were not looking for the unveiling of the Kingdom of God; they were looking for a miracle.  And they often misunderstood Jesus and his motives.

We have the advantage, living as followers of Jesus today, to be able to read the Bible and get a clearer picture of Jesus’ motives and ministry.  This enables us to follow him not because he is a celebrity, but because he is God’s one and only Son, Saviour of the world and revealer of the Kingdom.

Let’s face it:  it’s easier – meaning, more socially acceptable – to cheer for Bieber or not cheer for Ford than it is to follow Jesus.  It was easier then, too.  Remember Barabbas?  The crowd called for the release of a known criminal and for the crucifixion of the One who came to show them what God really was like.

Those making headlines today are not giving us even examples to emulate, let alone eternal salvation in the presence of the Creator of the universe.  Who will you follow?

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118.9, NLT).