There are two things that I have become acutely aware of lately, with all that has been going on in my life.
First, I'm aware that people do make a direct connection between my actions and my faith in Christ. I've been convicted about this on a few occasions. One time was when I was out one night and had probably too much to drink. I explained to this other person that I only began drinking about 2 years ago. They assumed that I must be a Christian (even though my reasons for not drinking had nothing to do with being a Christian, since my decision to not be a drinker preceded my conversion to Christ by about a decade -in fact, my faith in Christ has led me to drop the rule and be more open to occasional social drinking in moderation). Anyway, I confirmed that I was as Christian, and later I heard them make a comment about me being a "True follower of Jesus."
I can't be sure, but I don't think it was a positive comment. In either case, it stung a bit -convicting. While they may think that being a Christian is all about "being good," which is a woeful misunderstanding of it all, it still stung because I again realized that I am a representative of Jesus, the King of Kings. When people know that I am a Christian, an association is made. Granted, people are unfair and misjudge all the time (Christian or not), and Jesus even warned that we would be judged unfairly and have trouble just for being His, but I don't want to be that guy. I want to honor Him with my life, if I can help it.
Second, I'm aware that my actions are connected to where I am with Jesus, to my faith. In other words, while outsiders may have no clue about what it means to belong to Jesus, and while they may mistakenly conclude that it is all about "trying to be good," so that they can mock and point their finger when you screw up or fail to live up to some standard they think you should be living up to, they aren't 100% wrong in assuming that there is a connection between our actions and our faith. In fact, I've seen in sparkling and sometimes ugly clarity how our actions really do reveal whether we believe God or not. I'm not talking about believing in God but about believing Him.
Disney's animated adaptation of the Exodus story, The Prince of Egypt, was on television yesterday. I absolutely love this movie, but it was aired at an important time this time. I was reminded of the Exodus story as a whole, including God's gracious deliverance of the Israelites and their path out of slavery and oppression and into the promised land. The thing that struck me the most was everything that followed where The Prince of Egypt ends, namely the fickle, faithless wandering of the redeemed people of God.
But I really identify them. I lose faith, the "sight" of what God has done and where He is taking me. I forget how I was redeemed. I look at the circumstances at hand, at the long journey in the desert that I am on, and I doubt God. I doubt His intentions. I doubt His goodness toward me. I doubt that He really cares or really will do anything to help me when I need Him. And after a while, I start to doubt if He is really even there. Maybe I'm just talking to nobody?
And that doubt changes things. When you start to believe you are just going to be left to die in anguish in the desert, you live differently. You follow that temptation. You start to not give a crap. You harden your heart. You get tired of waiting and take matters into your own hands, looking to temporary and often destructive things to fill you up and numb your pain. You indulge in things you should not, scarring yourself and displaying to the world that God is not really worth believing and following.
Make no mistake. This is a journey in the desert. And if we believe God, if we hold on and believe Him, believing that the end is in sight and that He is with us and will bring us there, we will remain faithful and reap our reward.