By Not Known
“Excuse me, are you a leader?” When somebody inquires of you in this manner, it can mean one of several things: (1) You have exhibited what it takes to be a leader; (2) You are unbecoming of a leader; (3) I’m looking for a leader. Similarly, when people privately ponder about us or publicly probe us about our religious identity, they could also mean one of those three things.
“Excuse me, are you a Christian?” It used to be that people had this caricature of a Christian – he goes to church every Sunday, carries a big Bible, wears a wide smile, with a halo overhead, and oozing with kindness and warmth. Pretty attractive, though seemingly too good to be true… It does cause us to wonder what the early Christian believers were like such that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47)
“Excuse me, you are a Christian?” I detested their behaviour towards people. I found their attitude towards work abhorrent. Knowing that they were Christians had put me off from visiting churches – those “hole-ly” (i.e. full of holes) institutions. Otherwise, I would have become a child of God earlier. Those were my impressions of Christians until 30 years ago. I wished they had taken to heart Peter’s exhortation, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12) Why did Peter have to instruct the early Christian believers in this way?
To the early church, being Christian was not simply a private confession of faith by praying a sinner’s prayer; it was essentially a public profession of a life transformed by the Spirit, both individually and corporately. Acts 2:42-47 testifies that they learnt and lived the faith. The word of God was taken seriously. They loved and served one another. They worshipped God whole-heartedly. They were blameless before all the people. It was publicly attractive enough such that people were daily enquiring, “Excuse me; I’m looking for a Christian… to tell me how I might become a Christian too…”
On these Mission Emphasis Sundays, may we examine ourselves in the light of the Gospel in which we have professed our faith. What kind of worshipper am I? Have I conducted myself in a manner that brings glory or shame to my God? Has the Gospel been displaced or even replaced from the centre of my heart? If somebody were to ask, “Excuse me, are you a Christian?” – what would they be meaning to say?