Monday, April 2, 2012

Attractive Faith, by M

A couple of weeks ago the BF and I flew to Midland, TX for a wedding of one of his best friends from college. I'll spare you the details of my Texas experience (I've been assured by many native Texans that Midland is NOT represenative of the rest of the state)... but let's just say it was an adventure characterized by dust, oil rigs, and ancient taxidermy. ha! Aren't you curious now!?

Although it was an epic process getting there and back (I spent 17 hours en route for a 22 hour stay), I was really glad to go and share in the bride and groom's joy at getting married. It was also an exciting and important time for me to meet and spend time with lots of my bf's closest friends. All in all, I would call it a valuable experience, taxidermy aside.

Now, on to the point of this post... In the twoish weeks since the wedding, I've been thinking about one of the things that their presiding pastor said during the ceremony. The bride and groom are both Christians who I would say are really "walking the walk," and the pastor took the time to acknowledge the sacrifices they've made to walk in the faith, the love they've already shown each other, the way their relationship reflects the love, grace, and forgiveness of Christ, etc. (All pretty standard fare for Christian weddings, I believe). However, he then said this:

"Thank you for the way in which the two of you make the love of Christ attractive to all who watch your lives and your relationship."

And something about that really resonated with me. I love how he used the word "attractive." To be honest, I'm not sure that I've ever heard anyone use such phrasing. It immediately got my head spinning... "am I doing that? I want to do that!"

So I've been thinking lately about what it means to make the love of Christ attractive to those who watch us... especially those who don't know Him. (This is made more difficult by the fact that I truly don't know the bride or groom. Thus, I can't use any knowledge of them or their actions as evidence of what the pastor was referring to). What does it mean? How do we do it?

I know that the answer lies not in preaching a prosperity gospel. We can't win people by promising things that the Bible doesn't promise. Sure, it's attractive to tell people that if they believe in Jesus they'll get a great job and have healthy kids and never face trials... but that's a lie. Actually, the New Testament promises more of a "poverty gospel" (yes, I just made up that term... it's the opposite of prosperity, isn't it?!) The Bible says "come follow Jesus and you'll have the pleasure of suffering, being persecuted, and possibly even stoned to death!" Hmmm, okay... that is not attractive to me.

Back to square one. So I got to thinking about how Christ was an attractive guy (meaning, He was like a magnet to many people who heard of Him or crossed His path). He didn't spare the truth or sugarcoat the reality of things, but people were still drawn to Him nonetheless. He had a magnetic quality... which means that his Holy Spirit in us is meant to be magnetic, too?

At the end of the day, maybe the answer to this question is simple: what makes us attractive for Christ is the fruit of the Spirit. What draws others to us is allowing Christ's goodness to flow through us and pull other people in like Christ's own magnetism did in His day. As a reminder, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23)

So then the real question becomes, am I living my life in the Spirit? Are the people I encounter experiencing my own spirit (which is self-centered, sometimes nasty, and certainly unattractive) or experiencing the Holy Spirit? If I take a look at my actions and ask myself "did that interaction make Christ seem more or less attractive?" I can pretty easily see which force was ruling over my heart in that moment. This is terrifying. It reveals to me how much further I have to go to live a life that does a good job of glorifying God. I tells me that yet I struggle to "live a life worthy of the calling [I] have received." (Ephesians 4:1) For what calling do we have if not to glorify God and make His ways attractive to man?

I encourage you, then, to think about this as you act. Even better, before you act... ask yourself "is this an attractive choice?" If not, perhaps Christ desires for us (and from us) a different one. Can you imagine how this world would look different if Christ-followers acted as attractive as Christ did? The love, the mercy, the forgiveness, the grace? It would blow everyone's minds! And that's the point, right?

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