Monday, June 27, 2011

Judging By Your Appearance

   We remember the good ol' days when children moved about in a community under the watchful eye of adults everywhere who knew exactly whose they were. Our parents warned us that our actions would be reported back to us because people knew us. Those were good days, but by and large, those days are gone.  Towns have become cities, and some folks can go about their business all day without running into someone they know. Our lives are much less connected than they used to be. We are even surprised now when we come across someone we know, or who knows us.
   Standing in line at the office supply store recently, I was greeted by some surprising words. I can hear your best guesses right now: Would you like to add an extended warranty to this pocket protector? or Did you know we're offering a two for one special on slide rules today? Wrong.  The woman checking me out said, "Are you a pastor?  You look like a pastor."
   I have heard these words before, and on occasion, under very similar circumstances. Yet for however often I hear them, I always seem to walk away with unanswered questions in my mind.

  • Donning no clerical collar or embroidered shirt, what about my appearance makes me look like a pastor? Surely it is not the attractive hairline, for both Charles Stanley and Billy Graham looked very much the part with their full heads of hair.
  • If I was correctly identified with some office that is generally considered one of good morals and ethics on a day I'm acting on good behavior, then what is my behavior like in all of the other moments when people take me to be something else?
   I'm less interested in how she correctly knew my vocation than the larger principle for all of us: How will the world recognize us? Do all Christians walk through life this easily recognizable? Should we?
   Parks Cousins is quoted as saying, "How things look on the outside of us depends on how things are on the inside of us." I think he speaks the truth.  If we are seen on the outside for what we are carrying around on the inside, then what are people seeing when they observe us? My thoughts return to song written a few decades back that proclaims that they'll know we are Christians by our love.
   Instead of longing to return to a time when we were all known around the neighborhood by appearances given us by our parents, let us pray to reach a day when we in the church are know for our greatest possession: the love and hope we have in Jesus Christ. They will know we are Christians by our love. Grace and Peace.

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