What Do We Want the World to See?

Back in the late nineties, we lived in the sweet small city of Marietta, Ohio. Marietta lies at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. It has great historical significance as the gateway city to the western expansion. The town features a broad levee where the sternwheel boats used to dock, and where they still assemble once a year for a Sternwheel Festival.

In pleasant weather, the town hosts musicians in a little courtyard adjacent to the levee. Being a musician and songwriter, I was featured there several times.

Once, when I had finished a set, my good friend Lisa approached me, gave me a hug, and exclaimed, “Jesus sure looks good on you!” I was taken aback. I thought she was quoting something from a sermon or song lyric. No, she had said it spontaneously. I later composed a song with that title because I loved the phrase.

What a great compliment! She was telling me that while I played and sang, she could see him on me, shining through. I couldn’t hope for anything better than that. Isn’t this what we want all the time, whether at work, at play, doing creative things, teaching, or parenting?

My husband and I got talking about this the other day. What was it that people saw in Peter, Paul, Stephen, or Phillip, as they traveled around the Holy Land sharing the good news about Christ’s resurrection and salvation? What was it that led thousands to cry out to Peter, “What must we do to be saved?” (Acts 2:37; 16:30).

How do we display our lives in Christ so that those who have not yet experienced a relationship with him might observe and desire it for themselves?

There is mystery in the way many of us are drawn to the Lord by the Spirit. Sometimes we become disciples long before we truly understand what has happened to us inside. This is how it was back in the 1980s when I was a smart, curious, but lost college student.  Jesus came in a distinct, personal way, and changed everything about me and the life I was living. This happened in large part because of the Christians around me.  Jesus looked good on them, and I wanted to meet him for myself.

I want to look at how Scripture comes to life to answer the question posed in my title. What do we want the world to see when they look at us? What do we believe, and how do we express our beliefs outside of our comfortable Christian circles? Most importantly, how do we represent the beautiful, winsome love of Christ to those around us, causing them to want to hear more about him? I’ve thought of four ways.

  1. We love each other well.  It is always best to start with the words spoken by Jesus himself. He told his disciples plainly, By this, all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35).

Unfortunately, the church has often done a very shabby job of this. Instead of being known for our love, we have often been known for our tendency to pass judgment on those that are outside of our circle. We engage in interdenominational, intra-denominational, and non-denominational squabbles at every level. At times even members of the same church can’t get along and don’t consistently show love and care for one another.

A greater offense is that sometimes the basic needs of Christians are not taken seriously as the responsibility of the Church. The world watches to see if we will take care of our own.

Picture how it would look to those watching if we were to consistently love and honor each other and work to meet each other’s needs. Maybe they would want to become part of such a loving and generous community, just as Jesus said.

2. We tell anyone who will listen about the supremacy and exclusivity of Christ, without apology. The magician, comedian and ardent atheist, Penn Jillette, has been outspoken about this:

“I’ve always said…I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” *

This man, who doesn’t believe the gospel, makes this excellent and very convicting point. If we believe that the gospel holds the only key to salvation and eternal life, and we hide the message because we’re ashamed or afraid, we lose integrity and authenticity when we DO speak up.

I love the testimony of the apostles after they had healed a blind man and got thrown in jail by the religious leaders. An angel broke them out of jail (see my previous blog series on angels), and they came together to pray. They said,

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).

After being punished for their preaching and healing in Christ’s name, they asked the Lord for greater courage to do more of the same. They are such wonderful examples to us.

Picture how it would look to those watching if we were to speak boldly and consistently about the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, regardless of whatever persecution or opposition may come. Maybe they would want to know why we would risk so much to follow him.

3. We exhibit joy and peace instead of anxiety and worry. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Clearly, this is important for our individual mental and spiritual health. It is the way we exercise our faith, putting all confidence in our loving God and Father.

But it also matters because when the world is in a tizzy about this or that social, financial, or political issue—which it ALWAYS is—we can demonstrate a different outlook. We can live calmly, patiently, and peacefully. We show forth, as Peter wrote, “the reason for the hope that lies in us” (1 Pet. 35. We can show those who are worldly and anxious how to maintain an outlook that is joyful and confident by focusing on Jesus Christ and the word of God.

Picture how it would look to those watching if we were to remain calm, confident, and prayerful, no matter what difficulties we are facing. Maybe they would want to know how to find the peace we enjoy in Christ.

4. We live wholeheartedly by a code of honesty and integrity based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. Christians in these morally relativistic times are all too quick to compromise, justify themselves, and make excuses for decisions and behaviors that do not line up with the gospel. Because we live under God’s amazing grace, sometimes we think that we can get away with a lower standard.

For me, this happens internally more than externally. To illustrate, I tend to have lots of judgmental thoughts about people I encounter throughout the activities of my week. I am a generally kind, polite, and considerate person, so I would never verbalize those thoughts to others because I know it would be hurtful. So, am I without fault because I keep my thoughts to myself?

No. We don’t get far in the New Testament before running into the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus spoke words that forever raised the standard for those who would claim to be his followers. What we think and harbor in our hearts matters just as much, or more, than the things we say or act out. At some point, the heart that Jesus already sees can and will be exposed and seen by others. Sadly, we give them an excuse to turn away from the gospel and call us hypocrites.

We don’t have to be perfect. But we do have to care about pursuing holiness in all our affairs, and even in our thoughts, because people are watching.

Picture how it would look to those watching if we were to guard our hearts so diligently that our behaviors and consciences were pure and undefiled. Maybe they would want to talk with us about how they can overcome their sense of guilt and shame.

These are just a few of the ways that Jesus might look good on us. We can’t take for granted that people are going to recognize that we are his followers. We need to consciously consider how we love and give, how we witness, how we pray and trust God, and how we think and behave ethically each day.

If we can walk in this awareness, maybe more people will approach and say, “I want some of what you’ve got” or “Why do you have so much hope and peace?” or “Please tell me about your Jesus!”

Maybe they’ll say, like my friend did, “Jesus sure looks good on you!”

Wouldn’t that be so wonderful?


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