When I was reflecting upon what subject I wanted to write about this week, I felt called to write about a portion of the Gospel according to Matthew that kept recurring in my thoughts. It was the portion dealing with love and wholeness found in Matthew 5: 43-48, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus instructed his followers about loving our neighbors.
What particularly stuck in my mind was the admonition that our Father in heaven “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (NRSV).
If God allows the sun to shine upon and the rain to fall upon all people, then is there anything that we can do to influence the world through our faith?
What differentiates us, as Christians, from other people? We have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to the Holy Land on four separate occasions, and one of the things that struck us on each occasion was how much it appeared that we were distinctly different from those around us. It was as though we had a capital “C” visible on our foreheads, where as others had other distinct appearances, some with a capital “J,” some with a capital “I” and so forth.
Ludicrous, of course, yet we couldn’t get over the feeling that our faith defined us when we were there, and perhaps we may have acted just a little better toward others as a result. Why would our behavior toward others change when we were in the Holy Land, and not at home?
One cannot differentiate or determine what a person’s faith is by looking at them, in spite of the perceived capital letters previously referred to, especially here in Craig. Is there a guaranteed indicator that allows a person to say, without hesitation, that they can determine a person’s faith by observing them? It is a common perception that more converts have been won through observing a person living the gospel than by the preaching of the gospel, especially when a person appears to be preaching at rather than speaking with another.
I would have to wholeheartedly agree with that, for there are few things more powerful than watching the gospel in action. Returning to what Jesus continued to instruct his followers, he asked them if they loved only those who loved them, how were they different from anyone else?
Jesus called all people to love one another, and yet we often times appear to be more judgmental than loving in our approach to others. Do we, as Jesus did, address those whom the world has condemned or ignored, such as those in prison, those with criminal records or who could be considered sinners?
Jesus was condemned himself because he associated with, and came to save, those whom the world considered to be sinners. In the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 25: 31-46) Jesus admonishes us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the sick and those in prison.
One cannot help but think that if we preach the gospel through our actions as well as through our words, that “organized” religion might not have as bad a connotation as it has received of late. One might take great relief in the realization that church is meant to be a “hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints.”
I pray that each of us may live into our faith through our actions as well as our knowledge, and that others, upon seeing our actions, may decide that being a Christian is the path toward life, and life eternal.
Rev. Bain White is the pastor at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church/Lutheran Church of Grace in Craig.