Francis Chan says, in Crazy Love, this:
I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn't match our lives. We say things like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." Then we live and plan like we don't believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn't come through. But true faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God's fidelity to His promises.
A page before that we writes:
My suggestion as you think, make decisions, and discern how God would have you live is to ask yourself, "Is this the most loving way to do life? Am I loving my neighbor and my God by living where I live, by driving what I drive, by talking how I talk?" I urge you to consider and actually live as though each person you come into contact with is Christ.
I copied these words here because I agree with them so wholeheartedly and do not think even if I took the time that I could write them more succintly. So now, I will just expound on his words a bit.
I feel bad about the example established Christians set for new Christians. This is a real life example. If you recognize yourself in this example, give me a call. A person I know came to Christ a few years ago. God made a HUGE difference in her life. Because some Christian ladies cared enough about her to make her feel welcome at a church-y thing. And then, she came to know GOD! Which is awesome. That will totally be a star in their crown in heaven. Jesus is psyched.
But then, those Christian ladies gave her a bad list of what is important. They, through the way they live their lives, modeled their "Christian" priorities. And she sucked it right up. Here's the list: nice house, 3-4 kids, minivan, tasteful clothes, healthy weight, extra-curricular activities for the kids (soccer, ballet, etc.) , financial responsibility, college education, and the list goes on. Those are not bad things. But they are a wrong focus. We should not live in such a way that a new Christian comes to believe that that is the POINT.
When a new Christian observes a Christian with a few years under her belt, what should she see?
A new outfit or love that gives a new coat to a homeless lady?
A new hairdo or joy on your face?
A college education or peace in knowing that God uses you in your weakness?
A row of sparkling children or patience as you direct your child in how stay on the sidewalk?
A gas-effecient minivan or kindness in a old Blazer that stops for the old lady walking home from the grocery store.
A 'good steward' who sells all the kids' outgrown clothes or goodness to those who could never afford that Children's Place outift?
A well-planned financial system that ensures all 4 kids go to college without too much sacrifice or faithfulness in giving to the single mom whose oldest son is attending the community college?
A shiny sink or gentleness in teaching your children to put their dishes on the counter?
A Yoga-firm body or self-control in buying/growing and eating only what you need and giving what you saved to the soup kitchen or your extra produce to the people all those children?
I am writing about this today not to point fingers. Because, I honestly smacked my kids while I was writing this because they kept interrupting me. Really. And that is not gentleness (or patience or love or...). Because I can't do 'gentleness.' But the Holy Spirit can. And He does. When I let Him. But that is a whole other topic.
I am writing because that example I gave? It rips my heart out when I see that person striving for the wrong things. Things that lead her AWAY from trusting and serving God. Things that lead her to trust and serve herself under the guise of "taking care of her family."
I'll end with a quote and a question.
Quote: "Christians are like manure. Spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they really start to stink."
Question: "Which are you? The kind that reeks, around which people walk a wide swath? Or the kind that trusts God enough to let Him spread you out- whether that means going outside your normal group of Christian friends, increasing your material giving, or using your time to serve others?"