When I walk the dirt streets of Finetown, South Africa, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind who observes my peach-colored skin that I am an outsider. No one with my skin color lives there. In fact, according to a 2011 census, only 0.11% of the population of Finetown and the area around it is ‘white.’ Whenever I visit this informal settlement that lies 40 km south of Johannesburg, I rarely, if ever, see anybody who looks like me, either. I don’t have to do anything to look different there; I just am.
However, if you observe me walking down the corridor of the Cresta Mall in Randburg, South Africa, you wouldn’t necessarily know that I am an American. According to a 2011 Census, nearly 46% of the population who lives there is categorized as ‘white.’ This percentage of people is primarily composed of Afrikaner (those who descended from Dutch settlers from the 17th and 18th centuries) and English (those who descended from British settlers in the 19th century) populations. Unless you really, really, really study my mannerisms, some one might think I am an Afrikaner or English descendant. My skin color doesn’t betray me. It isn’t until I speak, that my accent gives me away and I am once again termed an ‘outsider.’
Recently, I have wondered something about myself.
Do I, in any possible way, show others that I am a follower of Christ by the way I look, the way I act, and the way I speak?
Would someone know that I have Christ living inside of me as I walk down the corridors in the mall in Randburg?
Recently a friend challenged me with a statement that caused me to wonder how people – outside of the Christian faith – really, really, really, really, really can tell that we are Christ followers. My friend really doesn’t see much of a difference.
It says in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In my mind, then, if someone is interacting with a Christ-follower, that person should observe something, feel something, hear something, and sense something radically captivatingly different about the one who proclaims Christ as Lord.
What is that difference?
Jesus Christ Himself.
Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been made holy. Let me say that again. Because of what Jesus has done, we have been made holy. Jesus Christ is beautifully present in the believer’s life. There is sweet and precious intimacy that is shared. And because of this new life, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us and help us live in a transformational way too; helping us to – “not conform to the pattern of this world….”
Our walk and talk have the potential to emulate our Savior in such a way that others’ wonder: “What makes this person so real, so loving, so accepting, and so gracious?”
It is then that we betray that we are truly outsiders of this world.
Are we doing that though?
According to my friend, there isn’t much difference between what non-believers and believers say and do. And if changes are to be made in either’s life, my friend doesn’t really see that believers are drawing upon the strength, peace, and help of Jesus Christ.
It’s a blanket judgment, of course.
Yet it makes me wonder how many of us are using our religion as the means of incorporating ritual and works to help us become godly – rather than trusting Jesus Christ to do the work inside of us. Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is dwelling inside of us and because of His presence we are radically changed?
One of the most common spiritual errors that Believers make, even now, is that we must continue to do good works to get to heaven. We need to be good and show the world that we are doing good.
Jesus never asked us to do that.
A long time ago, Jesus said, to a woman at a well, “If you knew the gift of God and who says to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water (John 4:10)…But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” NIV, John 4:14
Do you see what Jesus has said and is even saying to us now?
The gift of the living water, the Holy Spirit, is present in us. Once we drink of this life-giving water, we have changed and our spiritual thirst is quenched – once and for all!
We have been saved by grace and our faith in Jesus Christ. That’s it. No work. No deed. No word. Nothing but faith in Christ has, can, or will save us.
So, why does my friend cast this blanket of judgment across the believers and unbelievers that look and act no different from each other than my skin tone does in mall in Randburg, South Africa?
Because, I think, he sees some Believers still striving to do things and say things without the presence of mind that Christ is Present.
Because if we really acknowledged the Presence of Christ in our lives, I am certain we would do things a lot differently.
We would love others more than condemn them.
We would care for others more than ignore them.
We would bless others more than curse them.
We would humble ourselves more than shame them.
We would encourage others more than wound them.
We would forgive others more than punish them.
We would accept others more than judge them.
We would listen to others more than shout at them.
We would embrace others more than fear them.
We would trust God more with our lives than trust and depend upon ourselves for this life that we have been given.
Friends, if we really want to show a non-believing world that Christ is real and present in us – we need to live like we believe and embrace that truth!
What’s the first step?
Believe and trust that Jesus is in us!
As we do that, we then start loving others as Jesus loves us.
Love is the evidence of a Jesus-Present life.
It’s what will and does make us different and transformed from this world – so that Jesus can be seen in us.
I want that.