When people look at you, what part, if any, of Jesus do you think they see?
When I was younger, I always wanted people to see the “right” side of Jesus in me. The part that was above error, that always had the proper reply for everything because he walked so in-tune with his Father. I assumed that in order to reflect Jesus, we had to have an answer for everything (preferably quoting Scripture) and always be right. All. The. Time.
I’ve heard it said that “The mark of maturity is to realize you don’t know as much as you thought you did.” Boy, if that isn’t true. The older I get, the less I think I’ve got stuff figured out…including how well I’m walking out a Jesus-centered life. Sometimes I look back on the things I did in my youth in any number of attempts to appear Christlike, and I just cringe.
What’s funny is—and I never really thought about this as a kid—the sign of the helper Jesus sent, of the holy spirit in us, is the fruit it produces. And what kind of fruit is that?
Knowing everything. Being above reproach. Never having any errors in knowledge like those godless heathens out there—
Actually, no. Those are not the marks of how aligned we are with God and Jesus. What IS mentioned is the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and long suffering (or self-control).” So if I want to show people the mark that Jesus’ nail-scarred hand left on my heart, it doesn’t come through how much knowledge I have. It comes by how lovingly I present knowledge. It isn’t evidenced by having the answers…but whether or not I can present those answers in a peaceful, patient, and kind way. And, I would venture to say, by how peaceful, loving, patient, and faithful I can remain during the many, many, many times I have been proven wrong.
If I can’t be any and all of those things when I’m around people, then all of the words I’m saying are just clashing notes between deaf ears. In that case, I would present myself as a poor ambassador for Jesus—someone claiming to be his representative, yet displaying his message of love, peace, patience, and kindness in an unloving, distressed, impatient, and unkind way! Is that the idea of Jesus that I want people to walk away with, after they hear me claiming to stand for him?
What should I really be focusing on—what a great branch I am, or the fruit I’m producing?
Lately, I’ve realized that the thing I most want to emulate about Jesus is his kindness. This world starves for lack of kindness. Day to day, it’s almost impossible to brush arms with someone who hasn’t been affected by cruelty, rudeness, harshness, or neglect in some way. So lately, I make it a point to go out of my way to be kind to cashiers, waiters, random people I make eye contact with in the store…anyone I can. The kindness Jesus showed had the power to reach hearts that were closed off otherwise. And when we make the effort to show people the same kindness that Jesus did when he still walked the earth, we can change hearts and brighten lives. That’s definitely the kind of ambassador I do want to be!
I may fail at having all the answers, and I may struggle with patience, peace, and long suffering…but kindness, I can do. For, as the writer Aesop said in one of his famous fables: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”