Examples and conversations. Perhaps two of the most, if not the most, visible character traits of a Christian are these two, examples and conversation. We can go nowhere without being an example, whether it be intentional or accidental, without either being, setting, or being seen as an example. By the clothes that we wear, our haircut or style of hair, even the way one walks down the street, what others see with their eyes, sad to see, is how we are judged. A simple downward glance at an inopportune moment can be misconstrued, movement of the arms and hands while speaking can be interpreted incorrectly, standing to close to a store front that you have no intention of entering can spark rumors that can destroy our walk with the Lord in others.
Our conversations are no different and can be even more deadly. (James 3:5-6) A simple word spoken at the wrong time can plant a seed that can grow into a burning bush of hatred over time, even when we are speaking truth, if the inflection of the statement comes out, even unintentionally, sarcastically to the hearer, their defensive mechanisms will rise up and any further conversation will fall on deaf ears. I am constantly aware of this fault in my own life, for I am an adamant man when speaking of the truths of Gods words and forget sometimes that it is the way I am speaking that unintentionally pushes people away from me, and ultimately then from Him.
In one truth in this study of the character traits in this particular area I can speak in all sincerity, you will never please everyone, and you will please no one all the time. A saying or photo on an old t-shirt worn on a lazy afternoon, much less even the color of it, can bring criticism, a dress that some would see as too short or to revealing, socks with sandals, sandals without socks, the list is never ending. It is so ingrained in our world that we even hold functions where proper attire is required, black-tie only, no shirt, no shoes, no service. A true servant of the Lord our God does not live in this world, as it were, does not seek the praise of men, (John 12:43) yet we are commanded to adhere to all the laws of man unless they conflict with the Word and Will of God. (Rom. 13:1-5) We are not speaking about the laws of men here though, but the impression of how the world sees us, and how they see our Lord through us.
In the area of our attire and conversations, the Scriptures are quite clear, dress modestly as to not draw undo attention from those in society that still seek to fulfill the lust of the flesh, seek outerwear that shows an inner beauty so that those that are still in bondage to the lust of the eyes will not be drawn even further towards the pit. The pride of life has no place, whether in example or conversation, in the life of the believer, for we are not seeking the praise of men, nor are we using our freedom in Christ as a ‘ticket’ to do as we please, for we are to not be an offence to any. (Acts 24:16) I do not care what anyone thinks about me, unless I am unintentionally defaming the name of God, and so in every area of my life I must be aware of my surroundings, as it were, we must balance our freedom in Christ with the view that the lost world holds of what Christians are ‘suppose to be like.’
The world believes that Christians are to be nice, polite and kind, at all times, and as much as in us, we should, (Rom. 12:18) but to trying to convict someone in something they do not believe in is difficult to say the least, for the lost do not understand the concept as described in the Word of God of the word sin. Our examples are to be in not only what we wear but in what we do, and if these are not backed up with our conversations, we will just be seen as ‘good’ people, nice guys, helpful, folk. It is an awesome thing to go to an elderly persons home to help them clean, assist them in some way, or just to visit, but if our words do not glorify God in some way, if they do not know the reason why we are there, even in the smallest way, that it is because of what our Lord has done for us, then nothing you have done that day for this person will be recorded in eternity. This is counter intuitive to what so many Christians believe, but mans one purpose in life is to glorify God, there is no higher calling, and if we do not tell those we meet why we are there for them, no matter the reason, how is our Lords Name lifted up to the lost? Yes, you may be laying up treasures for yourself in heaven, (Matt.6:20) but that is not the reason we seek out the lost, is it.
Our works in the Spirit show the world that we are being obedient to the Lord, they show we love Him, and them, because of Him. In my short journey on this earth I am sorry to say that I have met many more Christians who are embarrassed, scared or even ashamed to speak to others about our Lord than those that do, and the excuses are as varied as the individuals who give them. “I don’t know enough about the Bible,” I wouldn’t want to offend,” “I’m waiting for the Holy Spirit to lead me.” My friends, none of these will hold up when you stand in front of Him on that day, He is not a grandfatherly type that is going to say, “Oh, that’s alright, I know you were embarrassed.” Our words are perhaps the most important tool we have to reach the lost, to build up the believer, to reproof and correct in love, when necessary. (Prov. 27:6)
Along with our words are our examples, you cannot separate the two and expect to perform the will of God, but in many ways our examples can be misconstrued much easier than our words. Can you tell who the children of God are just by looking at them? Of course not, a polo shirt and khakis, a suit and tie do not the Christian make, but there are actually places that call themselves houses of worship that will not let you enter unless you adhere to their dress code. I know, and perhaps you do also, brothers in Christ with long hair, tattoos, and beards, and some of them have been some of the greatest soul winners I have ever met. Those who have been forgiven much, love much. (Luke 7:47)
Our words though are the key, as it were, for how are we to let others know that we have been “saved by grace” (Eph. 2:8) a very difficult task to perform, by example only, how are they to know that they can be saved from the wrath of God through Jesus Christ if you don’t speak the words to them? It is a sad state of affairs when about the only witnessing tools that many Christians use today is “You should come to our church,” where the word ‘Christian’ means somebody that goes to that building down the street with the steeple on it. These are they that show their examples only on Sunday morning, whose words are chosen somewhat carefully on Sunday morning, and whose thoughts during the rest of the week I do not want to know.
If you have been saved by His Grace for any length of time, you know full well what is appropriate attire and what is not, and how to speak to those you meet is not anything that I need to teach you about, for nearly conversation will include the Love that our Lord has shown you in some form or another, and to not share that whenever possible would be inconceivable to you.
There is a joy that is incomparable when we are obedient to the will of God, when everything we do is meant to the best of our abilities that He has blessed us with to glorify His Holy Name, to lift up Jesus to all we meet. Guard your conversations, let every avenue of your examples be that of the life of Christ, do not try to please this world or anyone in it, but seek only to please Him whom you serve.