Many brethren without realizing it fall into the category of being Ugly Christians! DO YOU? Here, from a member of the Letter Answering Department staff — which handles HUNDREDS of letters dealing with these problems — comes information you need to know — AND PRACTICE!
A FEW years ago, a book came out on the market entitled The Ugly American. Perhaps you read it. It was the gripping story of what is WRONG with American foreign policy. This eye-opening book revealed the stark fact that Americans themselves, are the worst feature of United States foreign policy. The conduct of American citizens traveling abroad gives America a black eye in the sight of peoples everywhere — in Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia! But what about YOU? In your conduct before the world, do you give God's Church a BLACK EYE? Do you strike people as being weird, oddball, crazy, or fanatical? What kind of AMBASSADOR for Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God ARE YOU? Too many of God's people are falling down in this vitally important matter! It is time we understood how to be a GOOD representative of the Kingdom of God!
What Do You Mean, Ugly?
The word UGLY is a vivid, gruesome, word. Nobody wants to look at something that is ugly. Things which are ugly, are repulsive — repugnant — LOATHSOME! What, then, is an ugly Christian? Have you ever heard people comment, "If he is a Christian, then I don't want anything to do with it!" Or, "If that is a sample of Christian conduct, you can have it. It's not for me!" Such a person would qualify as an ugly Christian — a Christian who is not REALLY following Christ or imitating His perfect example! It is a supposed member who is SELF-WILLED AND OBNOXIOUS before God and toward other people! Why do worldly people sometimes utter such disgusted comments, referring to some of God's people? The answer is simple. Some of us have not been setting the RIGHT example before the world! Some, just like the "Ugly American," have offended unconverted people by ill manners, self-righteous conduct, ostentatious display of being religious, and almost total luck of wisdom! Many Americans traveling in foreign lands treat the people as "local yokels" or unimportant nobodies. They love to display their riches, lavishly buying gaudy trinkets. They complain loudly when they think the price of a particular item is too high! And, because of these thoughtless actions, many foreigners Ante the sight of our people! I KNOW! Having lived in the Orient. The fact that Asians despise Americans with their big, shiny cars and fat wallets was vividly impressed on my mind. It is not uncommon for Americans to walk down the streets of cities in Formosa and hear oaths and curses muttered — or even shouted — as they go past. But, brethren — are we making the some mistake in OUR dealings with the unconverted people of the world? Do some of us tend to parade our self-righteousness before people? Do we boast and brag about the "new truth" God has revealed to us and give the impression we think we are something special? Do we loudly complain when restaurant waiters mix up our orders? When eating in the homes of unconverted friends or relatives, do we always strive to bring the conversation around to religion? If pork happens to be served at dinner, do we haughtily declare, "Don't you know pork is not fit to be eaten? Pork is unclean — the Bible says so!" If the answer is YES to any of those questions, then you should think seriously and ask yourself — "What kind of Christian am I?"
Let Your LIGHT Shine
Let's notice what Jesus Christ had to say about Christian conduct. During the Sermon on the Mount, Christ admonished His followers, "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house" (Matt. 5:14-15). Yes, as Christians, we are the LIGHT of this sin-darkened, corrupt and wicked world! We are the ONLY light this world has ever known! But, let's read on. "Let your LIGHT so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Verse 16). As followers of Christ, brethren, WE HAVE A JOB TO DO! We have a commission — to let our light SHINE! How? In good works! By showing love to our neighbor, giving assistance when needed, lending a helping hand. If it were not for the people of God, this world would be in pitch darkness! When a person enters a room and flips a switch, a light turns on and illuminates the entire room. It is a helpful, pleasing light. That is the kind of light we should be! But too many are so weak in the faith that they barely give any light whatsoever — just a feeble flicker. When an unconverted person sees them, he is hardly aware of the light! Such a Christian has not fully come OUT of this world and its pagan ways! Others go to the opposite extreme. Rather than flooding the room with welcome light, they act like HUGE BLINDING SPOTLIGHTS! When an unconverted person sees them, he wants to either "shut them off" or run and hide! God Almighty, our Father in Heaven, wants us to live BALANCED, NORMAL Christian lives. He does not want us to be weak lights, failing to live the way we profess. Neither does He want us to become fanatical extremists — glaring spotlights — who give people the impression that true Christianity is some weird sect or outlandish cult! Jesus said, "Low your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the CHILDREN of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:44-45). What about you? Do you love the people of this world — people who are ignorant of the laws of health, ignorant of God's perfect way of life, TOTALLY ignorant of how to live, the purpose of life — people whose lives are all mixed up, frustrated, miserable and wretched? Do you feel COMPASSION for the multitudes, as Christ — our example — did? When you chance to meet an unconverted stranger, what is your reaction? Do you fearfully ignore him, afraid he might find out you are a Christian? Or do you despise him, because he doesn't have the truth you have? What should you do! Christ said LOVE even your enemies! We should show love, warmth, and friendliness whenever we meet unconverted people! That is the kind of light we are to be!
Too Much Talk
One mistake many people in God's Church make when around unconverted people is, THEY TALK TOO Mum! How many times have you gotten into "hot water" because you opened your mouth when you shouldn't have? How many times have you said things which you later regretted? One thing we often fail to remember about being a Christian LIGHT, is that a light shines forth and illuminates. It is silent — it does not make a SOUND! Ponder that a while. A light is not A TRUMPET! It is a silent, quiet, shining WITNESS! God's people should be shining Lights. God's MINISTERS are the ones to lift up their voices like trumpets to show the people their SINS! (Isa. 58:1). "Think before you speak' is certainly a fine motto — especially for a Christian! Think before you begin to discuss a certain topic at work. THINK before you give a rebuttal to your unconverted mate who seems to want to argue. THINK TWICE before justifying a mistake, or giving an excuse to your employer as to why you failed to accomplish a certain task! Use your head next time you visit a relative's home for dinner. If you do, there will be much more PEACE in your life! As Solomon was inspired to write, "When a man's ways [and words!) please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov. 16:7). One of the quickest ways to get into trouble is to "open mouth and insert foot." It would look odd to see a man hobbling around, one leg twisted up and his foot awkwardly stuck in his mouth! But that is how we appear to God when we make some crass, unnecessary, foolish remark which would have been better left unsaid! Solomon also wrote, "He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit" (Prov. 17:27). The reason many people like to talk so much is that they think they are impressing people — they are really getting their message across Rut such is not the case! Rather, a good listener is respected more than a voluble talker who prates endlessly on, never knowing when to quit. "Even a FOOL, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that SHUTTETH HIS LIPS is esteemed a man of understanding" (Verse 28).
When to Speak
When should a Christian speak, then? Is there ever a time? Most assuredly there is! The Apostle Peter gives us the answer to this question. Peter wrote, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to GIVE AN ANSWER to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15). Whenever anybody approaches you and begins to ask sincere questions regarding your belief, then is the time to speak forth and explain, in a simple, clear, logical manner. But, be sure to rise wisdom.' Do NOT use the individual's question merely as a chance to PREACH A SERMON at him. That would be the quickest way to offend him, stifle his interest, and turn him away for good! Let your answer be with MEEKNESS and godly fear, Peter said. Just answer the question. Don't be too curt or brief. Be friendly! But on the other hand, don't elaborate or go into great detail, just give enough of an answer to spark his curiosity and stimulate his interest. God may be calling him to His truth! If YOU will be very careful with what you say — and guard the doors of your month — you will succeed much better in avoiding giving the impression of BEING ail "UGLY CHRISTIAN!" "Let your speech be alway with GRACE, seasoned with salt [tangy, zesty], that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man," the Apostle Paul admonished (Col. 4:6).
Ambassadors for Christ
The United States is losing friends fast around the world because of its wretched, pitiful host of "good-will Ambassadors" — the tourists — the typical gum-chewing, bag-toting, pallid-faced American citizens abroad! As members of the very CHURCH OF GOD, we also are AMBASSADORS — Ambassadors for a much greater cause! "Now then we are AMBASSADORS for Christ," the Apostle Paul wrote (II Cor. 5:20). "For our CITIZENSHIP [Politeuma in the original Greek] is in heaven" (Phil. 3:20). What kind of an emissary are YOU? Are you losing friends for God's Work by your example? Do you give the wrong impression? Do you turn people away from the truth of God by your super-righteous conduct? Are you an UGLY Christian? Or are you a GOOD Ambassador? A balanced, normal, friendly person? Is your countenance filled with joy, happiness and radiance? Do people see your example and think, "I wish I were as cheerful and happy as he is! I'd sure like to know that person!" Analyze yourself! Brethren, face up to those questions! BEGIN WORKING ON YOURSELF so that you will be a better, more effective, more influential AMBASSADOR for Jesus Christ, the greatest Ambassador ever alive, who set us the perfect example!