Have the Character of Christ

“I feel like we don’t have a lot of time left. Whether it’s a few months or a few years, it really doesn’t matter. And if I’m wrong — and, on the one hand, I really hope that I am — it really doesn’t matter. Whether we have a little time left, or a lot of time left, I think we still should live as if we have only a little time left. We need to “keep [our] lamps trimmed and burning,” as the old Gospel song says (Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 12:35).

Our modern secular culture sometimes tries to persuade us that we, the Church, are no longer relevant, and we may battle the temptation to become discouraged and to believe this lie ourselves. However, one of the blessings of living in momentous times, and times of crisis, is that the relevance of the Body of Christ, and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the surrounding society at large is defined more sharply, highlighted more noticeably, and set apart in greater relief.

How we as individual Christians react to the crises we encounter will determine the degree to which we can be personally relevant and impactful, for good or bad, to advance the Kingdom of God or not, or even worse than not advancing it, to repel others away from it. Times of crisis test our character in ways that times of ease and rest do not and cannot.

If we respond to crisis with the character of Christ, we will draw the attention of the world to Him and to the good news of the difference that He can make in people’s lives, not only for eternity, but in very practical ways for today. If we respond to crisis with fear, anger, stress, worry, or negativity, we offer nothing helpful to the world to help them cope with, hope in the midst of, or get through hard times.

Bayside Life Church Youth Pastor Jonathan Sharp told the congregation on Sunday that in all of his activities and travels around town on Saturday, he never saw anyone smile. That is a grim statement, and an all-too-accurate picture of the world in crisis.

When my wife and I were shopping at Costco on Saturday morning, there was such a thronging crowd of shoppers that people were having to work hard just to get around and make their way through the aisles of the store, and were regularly having to make way for, and yield to, others so that everyone could get to where they needed to go to get the items they needed and check out at the registers. At one point, while on a mission to find a bag of rice, I transgressed someone’s path, and he, being a gentleman, made way for me.

I briefly but brusquely apologized, and he kindly and pleasantly said, “No worries! It’s all good!” To which, while still continuing to push my cart at the same speed and not even turning my head to look at him, I retorted loudly, “No, it’s not all good! It’s all bad!” What a horrible witness that was! Here was someone who was trying his best to stay cool-headed and extend kindness to me in a high stress situation when I was the one in the wrong, and instead of reacting in kind, with kindness and thankfulness for his deference to me, I exuded a negative attitude, and broadcast and advertised a negative message, which possibly (I hope and pray not) changed his own attitude to be more cynical and negative.

Bad, bad, bad! I repented and asked the Lord for forgiveness, and should have stopped and turned around and asked for his, and maybe even that of the surrounding crowd who heard me. (I did a little better with my attitude after that, at least sometimes, although I still struggled with it and the whole situation of that shopping expedition off and on.) It’s probably good that I wasn’t wearing a Christian T-shirt, because I would not have been a good walking advertisement for how the Church is a refuge of peace and comfort at a time when the world is in crisis.

I hope that my experience that I have shared here can serve as a shining example of what *not* to do and say, and how *not* to react to stress. Keep smiling! Someone needs it, the world needs it, and you never know how much difference it just might make in someone’s day, or even for all of eternity!”
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