When we declare that we are followers of Jesus, there is a responsibility that comes with that decision. Like it or not, we will become walking testimonies of what it means to follow Jesus. We can protest this reality, but when we claim to be Christians people will look to us to discover what it means to follow Jesus.
Therefore, it is crucial that we understand what our lives are saying to the world about Jesus. Paul touches on this concept when he wrote: For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. (Philippians 1:20; NLT).
Paul was concerned about what his life was saying about Jesus. He wanted to live his life with boldness as he proclaimed the Gospel to people. Even in the face of death, Paul wanted to make sure that the way he lived would bring honor to his Lord and Savior.
If we are going to live an honorable life, like the apostle Paul did, then there are three steps we must take.
- We need to avoid anything that would bring shame to Jesus. As his representatives here on earth, the things that we do and the words that we say will be attached to Him. In this age of media, we know the shame that follows any well known Christian’s failure and what that does to the name of Jesus. The apostle Paul was concerned about this. He was public figure, which meant people knew what he believed and taught. Paul wanted to make sure he didn’t do anything that would cause him shame (which would bring shame to Jesus as well), and lose the respect of people. We need to be aware of the words we use and the things we do. We might think a certain behavior is no big deal or that it is safely hidden from others, but if it would bring shame to Jesus, then we need to stop doing it.
- We need to have a moral standard. If we do not have moral standard that is different from one of the standards that is accepted by our culture, then there will be nothing to set us apart from them. The standard we are to have as Christians is the standard of love. We are to love God with our entire being and love people as we love ourselves. When we have this type of love, it is going to lead us to do things that are radically different from the culture that we live in. Paul lived by this type of standard, and it took him to places and to people that he never thought he would go, because God’s love transformed his life.
- We need to be bold. Courage is essential if we are going to stand apart for the crowd. It isn’t easy being different because we feel alone and vulnerable. That is one reason why people have a hard time breaking free from the influence of the world. We live in a culture that is based on image rather than personal conviction. If we want to live based on our image, then we will not live boldly for Jesus. Boldness comes from the commitment of personal conviction, which propels us to do what is right.
While we seek to love the people of the world, we do not seek to be loved by them, rather we want them to respect us. Respect is the product of living by our convictions and treating other people as people. Other people may not agree with us or love us, but they will respect us. They will respect us because we are faithful to what we say we believe. We are people of integrity rather than people of hypocrisy, and that earns people respect.
Being respected is very important if we are going to make an impact on this world. When we are respected by others then they will listen to what we have to say and follow where we lead. Respect is a precious commodity, are you making sure you are holding on to yours?