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Saturday, April 28, 2012


Last Sunday in our young adults learning group Eric started our time together by talking about how the presence of Christians in Ephesus in Acts 19 led to the decline in the silversmith industry because the demand for shrines of Artemis was decreasing. He went on to ask what parts of our economy in present-day America might collapse if we as Christians were truly living out the Gospel, and later we also discussed what it is (if anything) that differentiates those of us who are a part of the Church from those who aren't.

I won't elaborate on the discussion that followed (except to say that the consensus seemed to be that we ought to "live our lives differently" -- which makes me think of the typical list of things most church-goers refrain from -- and not be wishy-washy about our faith) because I want to skip right to an experience I had the next afternoon at Wal*Mart that drew my mind back to the original question. I was getting ready to check out and had only a few items, so I started to get in line at the self checkout kiosks. However, the thought flashed through my head that I should get in a regular checkout line instead simply to take advantage of the opportunity to interact with a human being.

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God has really been leading me to be more intentional lately about my interactions with people in public places with the recognition that every person I come in contact with is created in His image, valued by Him, and may or may not be aware of the fact that He loves him/her. I have been experiencing an increasing desire to take advantage of every opportunity I can to reflect Christ to anyone I may cross paths with, even if it's just in a very small way such as smiling or being kind.

So I got into a regular checkout line, where I spoke with an actual human being. And I found myself wondering if all the convenient forms of self-service we have in our modern world are not a portion of our economy that might collapse today if we as Christians were living out the Gospel in a way that really exemplifies that we value people more than our own time or convenience. Now, I'm not saying that I think all forms of self-service are wrong or bad. I couldn't tell you the last time I spoke with an actual bank teller because I ALWAYS, ALWAYS use the ATM. But this is just something that I have been pondering throughout the week, even to the point of considering giving up my ATM use for the sake of having more human interaction unless I need something after hours. (Just to clarify, I'm not sure if I'm going to take this step or not; it's still just a matter of consideration at this point. So please don't hold me to it just yet, haha...)

The text for my devotional reading earlier that day had come from 1 Thessalonians 5, where verses 12-22 describe "Christian Conduct." I couldn't help but notice the verbs used in that passage and how different they are from what I think we American Christians typically think of as Christian conduct (e.g. that list I mentioned earlier of what Christians tend to refrain from). Here are the behaviors listed that ought to set us apart as Christians according to 1 Thessalonians 5:
~ appreciate
~ esteem...very highly in love
~ live in peace
~ admonish (which means "gently caution")
~ encourage
~ help
~ be patient with everyone*
~ [refrain from repaying] evil for evil
~ seek after that which is good for one another and for all people*
~ rejoice
~ pray
~ give thanks
~ [refrain from quenching] the Spirit
~ [refrain from despising] prophetic utterances
~ examine...carefully
~ hold fast to that which is good
~ abstain from every form of evil.
    *Emphasis added to note that these directions specifically apply to interactions beyond our Church family

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The first thing that stands out to me about this list is that the first 14 (out of 17 total) verbs used to describe Christian conduct are in some way relational ~ ways we are to relate to our leaders in the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our fellow man in general, and our God and His Spirit. Only the final three directions apply specifically to our personal, private behaviors. The second thing that stands out to me is that only four of the 17 verbs incite us to refrain or abstain from something... That means over 75% of the direction we are given in this passage for conducting ourselves as Christians is comprised of POSITIVE ACTION, which I believe stands in pretty stark contrast to the general list of things we DON'T do that we tend to think of as setting us apart.

Now I am well aware that this is not the only portion of Scripture that gives us instruction for Christian living, but since this is what I just so happened to read the day after our discussion about what sets us apart as Christians, I am pretty confident that God had some things to say to me through that particular passage. As I've continued to consider all these things throughout the week, it's really been on my mind that I think we could boil down to a single word what OUGHT to set us apart as Christians:


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Humility is not something we do or don't do; it is an attitude that affects how we relate to and interact with others. I can't help but recall the passage from Philippians 2:5-8 (which, quite ironically, is the "verse of the day" on BibleGateway where I look up passages online!) where we are reminded that Jesus Himself, "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." He "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." The very first words of verse 5 call us to have this same attitude in ourselves. And prior to this description of Christ's humility, in verses 3-4 we are urged to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than [ourselves]" and to "not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

Can you think of anything more counter-cultural, ESPECIALLY in America, than humility? It is a far more distinguishing characteristic than not getting drunk, or not having sex outside of marriage, or voting conservatively, or even making sure we voice our Christian beliefs and convictions to everyone with whom we cross paths. I honestly believe if we truly exercised humility, if we truly regarded others as more important than ourselves, if we looked out not only for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others, this in and of itself would be completely sufficient to set us apart as the Church.

I am very intrigued by these ideas and I am eager to continue considering the impact they need to have in my life...


Beth Stone said...

This is a really good post... I like your thoughts about choosing to interact with people rather than using self-service. It made me think of the essay, "The Weight of Glory," by C. S. Lewis - have you read that? He basically argues that there are no "ordinary" people; that each and every person you interact with on a daily basis is either going to be spending eternity in heaven or hell, and the encounter you have with him or her might be the deciding factor in which place it will be. That essay really had an impact on the way I think about others... Anyway, good stuff - thanks for sharing!

Kaysi said...

Thanks for your feedback, Beth!! I have not read "The Weight of Glory" (although your description of the subject matter makes me think I may have heard a quote or two from it) but I definitely want to now! Thanks for the recommendation -- and for your encouragement!! =)