Life on Parade
The encounter occurred recently during my monthly two-hour volunteer stint with a community project. Although I hadn’t expected to strike up a conversation, I found myself in an extended discussion with a woman whose eyes sparkled as she discussed the miracle product that had changed her life.
I don’t remember its name; I misplaced the flyer she gave me. Nor would I want to name the product for fear of extending unjust criticism or undeserved praise.
However, what caught my attention were the unmistakable parallels between her effusive recommendations for this life-changing substance and Christian “testimonies.” Namely, those joyous stories of people coming to Christ and leaving all their problems behind—not.
The Perfect Solution
The woman’s endorsement carried an air of unbelievability. Particularly the story of how her brother had been diagnosed with cancer but after only six weeks of daily doses of this whole food, it went into remission.
She talked of how horrible she had felt until she started taking this vitamin-rich, protein-packed, perfect substance. Others had similar stories of incredible health breakthroughs, she said; some were on her website.
Not only did this sound too good to be true, she saw nothing remiss with the company’s founder wearing a diamond ring that she said cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Best of all, she told me, I could get a canister of this wonder-working stuff for just under $80—or $20 less if I put it on auto-ship to get one every month. (Here you’re probably thinking, “A multi-level marketing plan.” And you would be right.)
The Importance of Appearances
However, it wasn’t the product’s disputable veracity that set me to thinking that day. Instead, it was the woman’s joyous countenance as she talked that stirred me to reflect: “Is this how church members—including me—come off looking to those on the outside?”
The stories of disgraced pastors and televangelists who took off with their secretary or embezzled church funds to support their gambling, drinking, or drug habits, are legion. So are the stories of supposedly-reformed alcoholics who wind up hitting the bottle even harder after a year of Sunday services.
I still remember the man who was baptized the same night as my wife and me. Right before the curtain was opened for our ceremony, he said with a huge smile on his face, “We’re brothers now!”
Within a month or two, he stopped coming to church. When we went to visit him and his wife a bit after that to encourage them to return, their nervousness quickly made it obvious that they would appreciate it if we left and never came back.
At our church in Louisville, Kentucky we heard one man proudly proclaimed how he had been a victim of Satan. The devil had kept him trapped inside a bottle, but no more because Jesus had set him free. Unfortunately, his freedom only lasted for another month or two.
More than Talk
My intent is not to cast any stones, but to say that I came away from this miracle cure encounter with an apt reminder of the reality that talk is cheap.
I can proclaim all day that I love someone, but if I don’t back it up with actions, my words will ring hollow. Likewise, I can say that thanks to God’s correction, I am more generous than I used to be. But if I revert to my stingy ways, others will simply laugh at me.
None of us who profess to follow Christ can afford to engage in hypocrisy. I remember the Christian businessman who shared about a co-worker coming to ask, “What’s different about you?” When he asked why the co-worker why he wanted to know, the man replied, “I’ve been watching you for seven years.”
Anyone who claims to follow Jesus can expect similar scrutiny.