In the county where I reside, a local election is heating up for this November. The candidates are running ads in the local newspaper. There are signs. There are bumper stickers. There are hats and shirts. The political games have commenced, and the candidates are jockeying for position (literally their placement on the ballot as well as leverage in the eyes of the voters). The conversations for one candidate or another are commonplace in local shops and restaurants these days.
Now, I am a staple in some of these local shops and restaurants, and I listen to the conversations that are happening around me. Many of you might get really uncomfortable with that confession, but I do listen. I have heard people cutting business deals, real estate sales, sports debates, grading papers, students talking about teachers, teachers talking about students, teens talking about parents, siblings talking about siblings, who is dating whom, where did so-and-so end up going to college, friends home on college breaks catching up, what is good or bad about someone’s church, mad about what that pastor said or did, and of course, local election opinions.
The irony is most people have no idea I am listening to their conversations, and if they did, they may not have said what they did about any of the topics I mentioned above. More specifically, I have heard supporters for certain candidates discuss campaign strategy, candidate qualifications (or lack thereof), and specific campaign pitches. I have heard compelling arguments. I have heard passionate stances of support. I have heard negative, smear campaigning. I have even heard blatant lies and untruths. I have heard it all!
These moments in my “remote offices” got me thinking about something I have heard Christian pastors and mentors say for decades: “you may be the only Bible/Jesus that someone sees.” My own terminology would be “you never know who is watching you!” I am currently preparing a Sunday School lesson for my high school students at church on the book of Lamentations and one of the big ideas in that book is “when God’s people sin, other people do not respect them anymore!”
I think this is obvious right now with the number of Christian leaders falling into all kinds of trouble in the church and outside of the church. It is obvious from the age-old phrase “if that is how Christians behave then why would I want to be one!”
The Bible speaks over and over again to Christians about being the light of the world, being sent into the world, and speaking the Gospel into the world. One of my favorite verses, and one I emphasize with my youth ministry, is 1 Timothy 4:12:
“Do not let them look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.”
Here, Paul is reminding Timothy to not shy away from his calling as a leader in the church to mentor and train other believers regardless of his age compared to the other leaders in the local church. This is easily applicable in our lives today by reminding us that we should be an example to the believers and to all people everywhere!
This can be daunting and intimidating to some people because of the fear that one mistake will cause believers and non-believers alike to ridicule them, but it is also encouraging because people today are interested in spiritual things and want to discuss them. It is not as random or overwhelming to engage people with the truth of Jesus as we might think. People are watching and listening to what we do and what we say. What example are we setting? What are we saying? What are we doing? Because you never know who is watching, or as I do, listening. Some people are waiting to find someone caught in sin or in a mess, but there are also others who are looking for someone to ask about their questions and doubts about God. They want someone to be courageous enough and open enough to share the hope of Jesus with them. Anyway, I was just thinking…