Last weekend Steve and I attended the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa. Yes, gasp, Tuscaloosa — Bryant-Denny Stadium glimpsed from the road, the Houndstooth Condominiums and a Paul W. Bryant street sign to boot. We were in enemy territory from a football rival sense, but we were among like-minded, similarly-motivated people inside First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa.
We sat through meals, keynote speeches and breakout session with editors, publishers, authors, bloggers, representatives of The Alabama Baptist and lots of wannabes, from at least a dozen states, such as ourselves. We were there to learn, get fresh insights, a renewed motivation and a focused purpose.
During Saturday lunch, we purposely sat at the table where we knew Javacia Harris Bowser would be. By all means, check out her website: seejanewritebham.com. Javacia (pronounced “juh-VAY-see-uh”) is a sharp, attractive, highly-accomplished, Christian, African-American woman who lives in Birmingham. She has been recognized by several different organizations for her business savvy and ability to influence others. She led two different sessions on blogging. Steve attended one, and I attended the other. She gave us so much to think about regarding our writing, but she also gave us a lot to chew on regarding the impact of Christians in non-Christian settings.
Javacia got her master’s degree in journalism at University of California-Berkley. Over lunch, she was asked what it was like to live in California and be a Christian. Was it difficult? How did other people treat her, etc.? What she shared surprised us. She said that while she was in school at Berkley, she found a church where she could worship and make friends. She carried on her life the same way she had always done. She didn’t wear any signs on her forehead proclaiming she was a Christian. She merely treated people with kindness and respect, attempting to know who they were, what their concerns were, what they enjoyed and what motivated them. AFTER building a relationship, she would reveal that she was a Christian, and their initial reaction was shock. They couldn’t believe she was a Christian, because, to them, Christians were MEAN, and she was not.
Mean. Us? Could we possibly come across as narrow-minded, bigoted, self-righteous, judgmental, unforgiving, unable to hear another’s viewpoint? Us? Mean?
I’ve been pondering that. If those traits are how we’re perceived, then NO WONDER those outside the Christian faith have no interest in coming in and learning more. Where is our Christlikeness? Do we say words He would say, do deeds He would do, interact with people HE interacted with?
What if every Christian made it their goal to imitate the Savior?
Think about it.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 the Apostle Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” That seems to sound pretty arrogant on Paul’s part, but I like the way Matthew Henry helps to unpack that verse. His understanding is: “Follow me as far as I follow Christ. Come up as close as you can to my example in those instances wherein I endeavour (Henry’s spelling) to copy after his pattern. Be my disciples, as far as I manifest myself to be a faithful minister and disciple of Christ, and no further. I would not have you be my disciples, but his.” I believe Henry is right in his interpretation.
Paul also wrote Ephesians 5:1-2 which the Living Bible paraphrases like this: “Follow God’s example in everything you do just as a much loved child imitates his father. 2 Be full of love for others, following the example of Christ who loved you and gave himself to God as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, for Christ’s love for you was like sweet perfume to him.”
Love. Sacrifice. Sweet perfume.
Pretty much the opposite of mean.