The Bible is God’s message to everybody. We deceive ourselves if we claim to want to hear His voice but neglect the primary channel through which it comes. We must read His Word. We must obey it. We must love it, which means rereading it throughout our lives. Elizabeth Elliot
Today is all about our reputation and the choices we make about our behavior. We should be seeking God’s direction about this as much as any other part of our life.
Will it damage my reputation as a believer?
If I feel my behavior is going to damage my reputation as a follower in Christ, I know it’s not from God. Would God lead me to any action that would “muddy” his character through my behavior? And that’s exactly what happens when our own character is “muddied”.
We are His reflection at all times and in all places. Good or bad.
However, our actions are not always understood by everyone. For example, parents may not understand a choice a young person makes to become a missionary. Friends may wonder why we don’t engage in certain activities.
But here is where it gets sticky because Christians have varying views about what is and what is not acceptable Christian behavior. Before I go further, I want to share what God has just today laid on my heart.
I wasn’t happy with what I had written because I didn’t want it to be seen as judgmental or have anyone assume I think I’m the Purveyor of Truth. During my time with God this morning and after praying about this post some more, I knew what needed to be added to make sure that wasn’t the case.
Whenever we are deciding what behavior is or is not right for us as followers of Christ, the one thing we mustn’t do is adopt any behavior or give up any behavior in an attempt to appear more righteous or holier than we are. Whatever we decide should be because we want to become more like Jesus. It need’s to be spirit-led. Jesus condemned the Pharisees who used their behavior as a means of appearing better than anyone else, while at the same time treating people poorly.
Integrity was far more important to Jesus than image.
So-o-o-o-o-o here I go.
I had a friend whose father was very rigid about his beliefs. Thinks were pretty much black and white with him, except when it came to him.
Every Sunday after church, the father drew the blinds so he could have a beer. He didn’t get drunk or anything but he was so caught up in appearances that he didn’t want anyone to know about his habit. Apparently his issue wasn’t with the beer drinking; it was that someone might actually see him do it. (As if anyone were going to peer in his window anyway, right?) I saw it as totally hypocritical. And I might add, he was not a particularly pleasant person. Self-deception can do that to a person.
It would’ve been so much better for him to drink his beer on the front porch and be kinder to people then for him to behave as he did. I would’ve respected him for his integrity. His friends and neighbors would have as well. I hope that sets the stage for what I’m going to write next.
I do not drink alcohol. I never have. This is not meant to illicit any kind of response or judgement; it’s just a fact.
The biggest reason I don’t is that I believe it takes away from my reputation as a follower of Christ. I believe I am to be live differently from the rest of the world. Do I have a problem with other Christians having an occasional glass of wine with dinner? That’s easy to answer. It’s not my decision nor my life. My concern is my behavior.
But just so you don’t think I ‘m avoiding the question. No, I don’t have a problem if I were to be out with someone and a drink is ordered, as long as they’re not driving.
And I don’t feel the least bit deprived.
God never takes away something from your life without replacing it with something better. Billy Graham
In the beginning I think my reasons for not drinking alcohol were possibly sanctimonious. Like my former neighbor, perhaps I wanted to appear “holier than thou”. I was young and didn’t understand that
the reasons we do or don’t do anything should be only because God has called us to a particular decision.
But now I can say my reasons are based on the fact that I don’t want anything to get in the way of my relationship with God. I’ve never known alcohol to do anyone any good. (Yes, I know the studies about the health benefits of a glass of wine every night. But there are other things we can do that will accomplish the same thing without the risk of addiction and all the other consequences that accompanies alcohol consumption.)
Alcohol takes away our “locus of control”. I want God to be in control of my life, not a substance that alters my thinking, my personality, and my decision making. Many bad decisions have been made when “under the influence”. Marriages and family have been torn apart, jobs lost. Irreparable damage has been done to relationships. And do I even have to mention fatal car incidents? (You notice I don’t say “accident” because there’s no such thing as an “accident” when someone is driving under the influence.)
And I’ve yet to know of a situation where two friends “get together for a drink” that one of them at least doesn’t end up getting behind the wheel. And despite what we want to believe, one drink does affect one’s driving.
I want my life to be attractive and different enough that others see Christ in me. At the same time, I don’t want to be so out of touch with the mainstream that I come across as freakish. There are some Christians who seem to take great pride in being obnoxiously different. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’ve certainly not always presented Christ effectively. My own reflection has been murky. I don’t want to go there again.
We all view controversial issues differently. What we choose to do or not do should be based on a thorough understanding of all of Scripture not just a few verses that we’ve taken out of context to condone our behavior. Believe me, I’ve done that as well. So I’m speaking to myself as much as to my readers.
And, most importantly, we shouldn’t condemn others who make different choices.
I find that the more mature I become in my faith, the narrower my scope becomes as to what is acceptable behavior for me. At the same time, I find greater freedom to be all Christ wants me to be. I no longer feel the need to justify or explain my abstinence.
I have no problem dining out where drinks are served. I have no problem going out with people who order drinks with dinner. My concern for my reputation does not extend to the point that I avoid people whose beliefs differ from mine.
It simply means I make choices that are in agreement with what I believe Scripture teaches and the principles to which I adhere.
I have yet to make anyone uncomfortable because of their choice to drink alcohol. Usually they’re uncomfortable because I’m not drinking. It’s kind of like in reverse. Funny how that works. If my abstinence makes other people uncomfortable, so be it. I’m not to be judged either.
This isn’t a post about whether Christians should drink or not. I hope that is clear. But I had to use something. It was this or smoking, pre-marital sex, drug abuse, pornography, swearing…This seemed the safest.
We all have to answer to God for our own decisions and life style. S0 let’s at least think through our behaviors and make sure we are making God-honoring choices. That goes for me as well.
When I’m in discussion with other Christians I pay attention to their choices regarding various issues as well. If there is something else in my life that needs to go, I want to be aware of it.
Maybe Robert Downey, Jr said it best. (wink, wink)
God bless and I hope you have a good day.
(The post “How to be absolutely sure God is leading us. Part five appeared first here.)