Today, I met with a company representative to do some work at our sanctuary. Long story short, the rep knew someone from our church and spoke highly of that church member. I even heard a few examples of what made that person so well regarded.
Their relationship had already inspired some shared community work in previous years. The work I was looking into this time wasn’t about helping our neighborhood or anything like that. It was a service we needed. Between the relationship the rep had with our church member and how we had already worked together before, the rep was ready to offer us a significant discount on what we needed.
Now, in some way, I hate using this example. It seems to imply Christians need to be nice neighbors. Why do we need someone to tell us that! Being friendly, unrude and willing to help others seems like an easy way to live as a human being. It’s a low bar to shoot for for the Christian heart.
I don’t like to identify someone as a “generous Christian.” In my mind, there are no generous Christians. Christians are called to be generous people. Period. The same is true with calling someone a “loving Christian.” The love of God redeems us. In turn, we are led by the love of God.
It shouldn’t surprise people to know Christians who are nice, friendly or helpful. It should surprise people just how graceful and loving we intend to be.
That’s part of what I read in Acts 27. When the apostle Paul was a prisoner on a boat headed to Asia, a centurion name Julius took notice of him. Julius treated Paul with consideration and gave him privileges.
As they journeyed, there was a shipwreck. The guards wanted to kill the prisoners so they wouldn’t escape. But Julius didn’t want anything to happen to Paul. So, he didn’t let them follow through with that idea.
What was it about Paul that prompted such an attitude from Julius? Maybe Julius was a nice guy himself. Was he a believer? Did he know exactly who Paul was and what he was doing?
We can only speculate.
It was Paul’s idea to have the people who could swim go ashore first. Presumably, that was so they could prepare for and help those who could not swim who would float to shore later.
I like to think there was something about Paul’s faith in Jesus that intrigued Julius. The same kind of thing that can intrigue people today when they meet a Christian. I hope you’re never involved with a shipwreck, but what would your non-church, non-faith neighbors or co-workers say about you?
I’ve given up arguing about Jesus to people. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever felt that’s what I should do. Instead, since the love of God transformed me, I’m going to let that be the example I give to people I meet, whether I get a discount or not.