August 11, 1999

Talk is cheap, so walk the walk

___You've probably heard the story about the guy who plastered a "Honk if You Love Jesus" bumper sticker on his car. Seems he promptly forgot it was back there and drove around town scowling and waving his fist at happy Christians who dared honk at him.
___What a witness.
___But real life sometimes is worse. At least the unhappy honker reserved his dark side for fellow Christians. Too many Christians roam among others as if they lived only unto themselves. By their worldly actions, they undermine the very message of Christ they publicly proclaim.
___You know what I'm talking about: If you've shared your faith very much, you've run into the "I don't need the Lord; I'm as good as all those hypocrites down at the church" defense. And it's built upon a measure of truth. The church of Jesus Christ has its share of hypocrites whose lives belie their verbal witness.
___What's the unkept "secret" in your town that turns unbelievers off to the message of Christ? Maybe it's the church split over worship music. Or the well-known deacon's affair with a much-younger redhead. Or the gossipy Sunday school teacher's serpent tongue. Perhaps it's a preacher's unpaid bills. Or maybe it's bigger, like wholesale denominational conflict or confusion about why so-called Christians can slaughter so-called Muslims in the name of God.
___A quote in last week's paper got me thinking about how Christians go about living--or not living--up to the standards of the One whose name we bear. "The walk and the talk don't match," a woman said.
___The quote appeared in a story about a seminary president who received a rather mild rebuke from trustees for what he calls "misappropriation of anger." He reportedly verbally abused others in the seminary community in such a way that would result in the firing of most any church staff member in most any Baptist church.
___This is the second editorial I've written this week. The first has been discarded. It noted the irony of the past 20 years. The president was placed in power by people who gained control of the Southern Baptist Convention by denigrating the people who used to control the convention. They said the former leaders deserved to be overthrown, because they did not believe right and therefore could not act right.
___This right belief vs. right action dilemma is intriguing. Southern Baptists were told if they would install leaders who believed in the inerrancy of Scripture, then all would be well in the SBC Zion. But clearly, orthodoxy, right belief, does not necessarily guarantee orthopraxy, or right action.
___The Apostle Paul addressed this struggle: "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ... For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing" (Romans 7:15, 19). And he points to the root of the problem--sin.
___We do wrong because of sin. We do not sin because of what we believe about the inspiration of Scripture, the ordination of women, the nature of divine election or the second coming of Christ. We sin because we are estranged from God, because we have broken relationship with Christ.
___We can recite orthodox doctrinal statements until the angels tire from dancing on the head of a pin. But until we repent of our sins and seek the loving face of Christ, we have no hope of living as we should.
___That said, we dare not forget two points:
___First, we must not gloat over the seminary president's troubles or the troubles of any other Christian. All of us are susceptible to shortcomings. If we were to start tabulating the times we have embarrassed each other and shamed the name of Christ, the list would be too long and painful to recite.
___Second, we must work and pray diligently to be worthy of the name Christian. We will not be perfect, but we are to seek to be blameless. Our walk must validate our talk, so that others may come to know Christ.
___ --Marv Knox

Email the editor at marvknox@flash.net


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