Column: Living Proof

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Column: Living Proof

Photo: Melia Covington

One minute. That’s how long you have to spend reading the news to see that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).

As much as we like to think Jeremiah’s words apply only to nonbelievers, Christians are often living proof of this truth as well.

Sadly, I can’t count the number of times I’ve shuddered at the evil committed by some members of the church.

I’m talking about pastors who dominated headlines for covering up sexual abuse, Christians who disrespect other human beings made in the image of God because of immutable differences or church members who were arrested for committing political violence.

Sometimes we find it hard during these moments of discouragement to remember that God is good. Now, I’m not setting out to write a defense of God’s goodness—although I do strongly recommend reading Augustine’s theodicy in City of God—because I think most of us know that He’s good.

We’ve grown up hearing that wonderful truth, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like He’s good. That’s why it’s important in times of trial to turn to the Bible, which repeatedly stresses the importance of faith.

Even when we’re bombarded by evil, we can trust that God will keep His promise to work “all things … together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28).

But what’s even more frightening than when we see other professing Christians commit heinous acts is the fact that we can be that person tarnishing Christ’s reputation.

We can feel righteous indignation one day at the pastor justifying sin with God’s Word, then ruin our own testimonies the next day.

Do we treat those around us with love and respect? Do we show Christ’s grace when others annoy us? Do we respond civilly when someone criticizes us? Do we speak the truth in love? Do we live in a way that clearly shows we belong to our Father?

Answering “no” to those questions is a warning sign to all of us that we’re representing Christ poorly to the world around us.

That hypocrisy tarnishes our mission as God’s representatives on earth, the ambassadors responsible for pointing others to Him. Our sinful actions give the false impression that the God we serve isn’t good.

A famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi by the Gandhi Research Foundia, why he wouldn’t follow Christ despite quoting Him frequently, Gandhi reportedly said, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It is just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Although Gandhi’s view of Christ didn’t line up with Scripture, Christians can still be challenged by those words. Nothing should grieve us more than detracting from our Savior’s amazing name, “which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). When we fail to treat others as Jesus did, we deter them from Christianity, becoming an obstacle between unbelievers and the Gospel.

Jesus strongly addressed this issue during His earthly ministry. “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:1-2).

When we as God’s people damage our testimonies— whether in scandals plastered across the news or isolated instances seen only by a few people—the problem is with us sinful human beings, not God.

Thankfully, God has the answer. Instead of trying to emulate Christ in our own strength, we can boldly pray that the God Who can keep us from sinning (Jude 1:24) will allow us to serve as living proof of His goodness and love.