As a life plan advisor at a retirement community, I’m part of a marketing team whose office is about 100 yards from administration. That means a lot of back and forth when I’m busy, so my step count – and surely my health – benefits.
It is rare for me to go from building to building without a stop or two. With 250 residents, I’m bound to run into a friend, and oftentimes, a few. Inevitably, conversation ensues. But ever a dutiful taskmaster, the clock reminds me I have work to do, and I’m reluctantly on my way.
One ordinary Thursday I was in a rush to get back to my office. Way down the hall, I noticed Mrs. Jones leaving her apartment and stopping a few doors down to knock on a neighbor’s door. As I neared, I couldn’t help but overhear their exchange.
“I wanted to apologize for what I said yesterday,” Mrs. Jones began. “I’m a Christian, and I know better than to talk about other people. I should’ve kept my mouth shut….” Her voice trailed as her neighbor tried to make her feel better.
“Why, I didn’t think twice about it, but I certainly forgive you. Would you like to come in and visit a while?”
About that moment, I brushed past the two of them, hugging the wall and pretending to be invisible.
Headed out for the day, Mrs. Jones declined her neighbor’s invitation and again reiterated why she was there. “I kept thinking about what I said last night, and I knew I had to apologize as soon as I could. I can’t take it back, but I am sorry for what I said.”
Soon enough, I was out of earshot, but I could still detect her neighbor’s gracious tone. There was something refreshingly childlike in their conversation, and my mind wandered to Robert Fulghum’s 1989 bestseller, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Sweet as saccharine, as memory serves me, his essays talked about how our world would be a better place if we followed the same rules we teach our children – how to share, clean up what you mess up, and be kind to one another.
We learn good manners, common decencies, and how to treat others when we’re young, but sometimes we forget when we grow up, don’t we?
Throughout the day, my thoughts returned to these women who were living their faith in the most basic of ways. Confessing sin. Forgiving quickly. When you live out your faith, people notice.
And, even if no one is around to observe, when you live out your faith, God is glorified.
I’ve grown frustrated and admittedly judgmental toward the absence of civility among people who identify as “Christian.” With a looming presidential election, we’ve already seen contention on both sides of the aisle. Social media and its echo chamber algorithms love to stir the pot. And yet, though our nation has become increasingly polarized, that doesn’t give any of us permission to be rude or hateful. Quite the contrary as people created in the image of God. As His image bearers, we have the privilege and responsibility of reflecting His character.
From Genesis to Revelation, we can discover glimpses of God’s character. Consider, for example, the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB):
…love, joy, peace. Patience, kindness, goodness. Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
In the Gospels, we meet God in human form through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. We see tenderness coupled with strength. Truth tempered by compassion. Power displayed through His touch, His actions, His words, and His prayers. In Jesus, we find a God who sympathizes with our weakness, understands our temptations, and forgives us again and again and again.
True, we’re born into a broken world, and in our flesh, we’re prone to sin. But, getting frustrated with or judgmental toward others doesn’t change a thing; it can even be self-destructive. What if, instead, we lived what we profess, following Ephesians 4:29-32 (NLT) as our guide?
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them…. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
In living out their faith on an ordinary Thursday, two precious older ladies pointed me to Jesus and glorified God through their actions. I was reminded that some of the most important things I need to know I learned as a child.
Although counter-cultural in His time, Jesus invited little children into His life. He understood what Robert Fulghum would write about centuries later — kindergarteners are pretty darn smart.
Age is irrelevant in the kingdom of God. Living out our faith always makes a difference.
Every interaction with others is an opportunity to love well and bring glory to God. When we reflect any aspect of God’s character, we’re creating the kind of culture our broken world needs to see. We never know who might be watching, and our words and actions might just be preaching a message they need to hear.