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.
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:
~ esteem...very highly in love
~ live in peace
~ admonish (which means "gently caution")
~ be patient with everyone*
~ [refrain from repaying] evil for evil
~ seek after that which is good for one another and for all people*
~ give thanks
~ [refrain from quenching] the Spirit
~ [refrain from despising] prophetic utterances
~ 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
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:
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...