It Makes a Difference...Or Does It?
Bill Tenny-Brittian

What do you talk about when you're standing at the water cooler (or wherever it is you have conversations at work)?  What do you do when there's a piece of a tire laying in the middle of the back country road that you're driving on?  What do you put in your report when earnings are down and spending is up and you know you could get away with using last month's statistics?  And what do you say when your married best friend starts in again about how he's certain the gal in the cubical across the way is making eyes at him?

Does your faith make a difference or not?

In the second century, Tertullian wrote that the pagan community would regularly comment about those of the new faith called Christianity, "Behold how they love each other."  Somehow, people back then could tell that Christianity was making a difference in people's lives.  Today, people can tell a Christian by the signs they're carrying.  The world sees Christians carrying signs that protest homosexuality, abortion, world trade, and democrats.  They know Christianity by what we're against.  Almost nobody recognizes us by our love.

I'm tempted, but I still don't have the bumper sticker.  You know the one: "Lord, Deliver Me From Your Followers!"  I'm sure those whose cars sport this sticker are those who have been beaten-up by the church.  When I was a teenager, how well I remember being told by the church elders that the music I was singing was of the devil.  I remember the way the church "supported" divorcees whose philandering husbands had moved on.  And as a pastor, how could I forget the ongoing "worship wars" that are still being waged in churches all over our nation as the "younger" generation (those under 50) tries to add contemporary worship tunes and the instruments that gives them zing! into the 11 o'clock holy hour. 

But it's in the everyday where Christianity is supposed to make a difference.   When you deal with a customer--do you treat them as if you were speaking to Jesus Himself?  When you're with your friends--are you trash-mouthing someone who isn't there (your sister?  your boss?  a coworker?  your children? ____?)?  Are you being consistent and honest in your business dealings?

Recently, I read a book that suggested many of our diseases have been linked to job behaviors that are inconsistent with our personal values.  For instance, the author cited a case where a woman had a tumor that was inoperable.  She was devastated and sought a therapist who asked her about her values and her employment.  It turns out, the woman had a high value of honesty, but she was having to lie to customers at her job.  She quit her job and the tumor receded and the cancer went into remission.

So, is your faith making a difference in your life?  Here's a couple of suggestions that are on the periphery for enacting your Christian life:

  •  When you ask how someone is doing, listen, ask questions, listen some more, and don't offer any solutions to their problems unless they ask.
  •  Take St. Patrick Day cookies (or for any other holiday excuse) to your neighbors--even the ones you don't know.
  •  Don't trash-mouth anybody.  And excuse yourself from others who engage in this practice.  Practice the adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
  •  Be honest in business--even if you risk your job.  Sometimes Christianity is expensive, but know that we can trust the Lord to work it out.
  •  Stop and help someone--whether on the road, in the grocery aisle, or in your neighborhood.  Imagine what people would think if your House Church went out one evening to help the neighbors cut their grass, pull their weeds, wash their car, or whatever.
  •  Make a sacrifice.  Give up your lunch for the homeless guy who hangs around the street corner by your workplace.  Turn around on the country road to go back and move the branch that's fallen into the road.  Drop in to your nearest convalescent center and just talk to the residents for an hour.  Volunteer at the AIDS hospice.  Do what Jesus did.
  •  Take the time to pray--really pray--for your neighbors, your family, your friends.