Do Non-believers See Us As People of Integrity and Having a Good Reputation?
Our primary responsibility as Christians is to live our lives before God and do things His way. We are warned about people pleasing instead of being God pleasers. This is how Galatians 1:10 says it: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Scripture also gives us principles of how to conduct our lives before the world, so we have a good reputation and are people of integrity. For openers we have 1 Peter 2:12, “Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world.” This is not people pleasing, but showing non Christians that you practice what you preach.
Recently I had a childhood friend pass away that I kept in contact and spent time with when I lived in the Phoenix area. He had been a Catholic growing up but spent many years uninvolved in anything spiritual. He worked for a major company in Phoenix and he decided one day that he was going to spend a year observing fellow workers to see which ones exemplified a lifestyle that he would want to emulate.
He told me after that year, the people who’s behavior most consistently matched their rhetoric were committed Christians. This caused my friend to return to church and make the Lord more a part of his life.
Colossians 4:5-6 is another Scripture about how to live before non believers. It says, “Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.” This passage tells me to be on the lookout for opportunities to share one’s faith, but to do it in a loving and intelligent manner.
Years ago I worked for a major utility company in the Phoenix area. Part of that time I was in Management Training and worked with a couple of other trainers who were not believers. One guy was a lapsed Catholic and was even agnostic in a lot of his beliefs. As we got to know each other I mentioned that I was a Born Again Christian. For him that was not a negative, just a curiosity.
As time went on we would discuss many different social, political, and religious issues. Often he would ask me what a Born Again Christian would think about such and such issue. I would always preface things by saying that not all born again Christians think the same on every situation, but this is what I think.
When I was leaving the utility company to go work as a pastor for a church, this man said to me that even though he didn’t believe what I believed, he said that my behavior was consistent with my talk. He also said that he loved to get my perspective because he came to respect what I shared. Obviously I wished he wanted to know Jesus, but minimally my lifestyle at least showed him a consistency in my belief and actions.
A few years back David Kinnaman, who works for the Barna Group, a Christian organization that does research, wrote a book called UnChristian. This book asked sixteen to twenty nine year olds what they thought of Christians. Overwhelmingly the answers were words like “hypocritical”, “insensitive”, and “judgmental”. Bottom line was Christians were better known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.
While some of the criticism was undoubtedly bias and unfair, Kinnaman’s conclusions were that our tribe was very inconsistent and yes even hypocritical to how our lives measured up to what Jesus taught. In other words we lacked integrity and had a bad reputation.
In this past year of politics, pandemics, and protest, I have seen statements made from our evangelical brothers and sisters that have brought me to tears. Statements about believing conspiracy theories to denouncing clear science became the norm for many in our camp. For me that is a clear violation of being people of integrity and having a good reputation.
I have felt that the cause of Christ has gone backward because of these outlandish statements, not based on any truth. We have lost our moral voice and our influence is damaged to the point that non believers don’t want to hear about anything related to Jesus.
Recently I read a wonderful definition of spiritual integrity. “Spiritual integrity is the state of being undivided together with the quality of brutal self-honesty. It demands a considerable depth of self-awareness and an uncompromising willingness to be authentic.” I would challenge all of us in the faith to think soberly about this definition and ask “am I that person?” Hopefully we will become that person and influence the non believing world for good once again.