Saturday, January 26, 2008

Words and Deeds: Modeling Good Behavior

I've long felt that Christians should talk less and do more. This interminable political season makes me feel more strongly about that, both as regarding Christians and politicians. People like to talk about "values" and then too often act like slobs, demonizing their opponents and behaving in ways that betray their professed ideals.

I came across an anecdote this week that illustrates the problem. It's told as a jab at a certain way of being Christian but it's equally applicable to all sorts of people who proclaim noble sentiments and then act badly. With a few changes of slogans and bumper stickers, you could rewrite it to mock frustrated "peace and love" liberals or other ill-tempered but high-minded targets. I'll pass it on in the form in which I received it, though, as I continue to think that, in the world of religion, "evangelism of the deed" is more needed at this time than "evangelism of the word". We need more Good Samaritans and fewer pious preachers.

Here's the story. I think it speaks for itself:

An honest man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman hit the roof, and the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup. As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.

He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, "I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car."

--Credit for this story: Rev. Mike Burr, Koinonia Community, Grand Junction CO. He says "in all likelihood, it was borrowed...feel free to use it." It was on the "Pastor's Page" in an essay entitled "Is it Christian? Matthew 7: 21-23"

The passage from Matthew is a good warning to those of us who are proud and overly confident in our righteousness, whatever our brand of Being Right might be, religious or secular.

Matthew has Jesus saying: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’"