Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16
My adorable friend Carrie who is one of the awesome sisters God has brought into my life in recent years, and who now lives in Oregon, wrote this in a letter to me yesterday:
Let me just say I was never a cat person but now I am in love with my cats. The kittens are such a joy to me. I sit and play with them as much as I can. They are so smart and entertaining and so very cute. I don't know how I am going to give any of them away.
Ever since I've known Carrie, she has not liked cats. In fact, that might be a nice way of putting it. You can only imagine my surprise to read these words from her. What happened? How did she suddenly get tricked into the "I Love Cats Club?"
The problem is that Carrie had always had bad experiences with cats. In fact, as a cat lover myself, I am always intrigued by people who hate cats and feel the need to ask them why. Always the same answer—a bad experience somewhere along the line. Maybe the cat was too aloof, too psycho, or just plain mean. In short, what they mean is—a few bad cats gave the rest of the great cats a bad name.
Isn't that also true of believers? There are many wonderful, authentic believers in this world, yet a few bad ones spoil the pot. When unbelievers come across hypocritical, dysfunctional (a.k.a. captive), insincere, and mean-spirited varieties, it gives the rest of us a bad name. In fact, it gives God a bad name too, because we are His representatives.
The truth is, we all give God (and His followers) a bad name at some point. We all lose our temper, fall into sin, treat others unkindly, and practice what we preach against…at times.
But what I'd really like to see is people like the Carrie's of this world, who have been soured toward Christians because of bad past experiences, get to see the other side of us. That means we will have to look for opportunities to make up for people's bad experiences in order to exemplify the love of Christ to those who do not know Him. And this will require a cost. When we meet people who treat us badly because we are Christ-followers, it will mean that we don't retaliate. It will mean that we treat them with extra patience and kindness. We will have to choose to be a sweet fragrance and the very essence of the love of Jesus.
We will actually have to practice what we preach. Ouch.
If we can do that, we will surely win over the affections of some of the people who have despised us. They may even become our best friends and more importantly, they will more easily be won over to Christ Himself.
Remember, every day in this world, we are a walking billboard. Will others have such a bad experience that they'll assume we're all "that way," writing us out of their lives? Or will their encounter with us be a favorable, sweeeeet experience, drawing them closer to Jesus and giving them a desire to be one of us?
For we are to God the [sweet] fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NKJV)