My British cousin spent ten days visiting me in August of 2017. It’s always fascinating to have foreign houseguests. They notice things that I take for granted, and they pose questions that I might never have thought of. She was curious about the way we in Idaho use flags, signs and bumper stickers to communicate things about ourselves.
Take for example my Green Bay Packers decal. While European football is not the same as American football, devotion to a favorite team is something she understood. Team names like “Giants” and “Bears” and “Vikings” made sense to her. “Packers”, not so much! What a curious thing to call a sports team. Another example was the ubiquity of American flags. Flags on public buildings seemed logical to her. But, if almost everyone in Idaho is a U.S. citizen and today is not a national holiday, what messages are people trying to communicate by flying flags on their houses and cars. Wasn’t that just re-stating the obvious? And then there were the houses with The Ten Commandments signs in their front yards. Did those households have naughty children that needed constant reminders to be good? Would seeing those signs ever convince anyone not to kill or not to commit adultery or not to bear false witness?
Her insights made me question the effectiveness of signs. What do I want to communicate with my signs – and – do other people actually “get” my message? Or, like the Confederate battle flag, is my message open to a variety of interpretations?
How do we signify our faith to the world? Some people wear cross necklaces or lapel pins. Others put chrome fish symbols on their cars or have bumper stickers with Bible verses or information about their churches. Obviously, there is a disconnect in the message if the car is speeding 95 mph down the freeway, weaving in and out of traffic, and the driver is making obscene hand gestures.
But, even without jewelry and car adornments, people figure out pretty quickly if we profess to be Christians. From that moment forward, it’s as if each of us wears a big sign. Others judge Christ and his church by what we say, but mostly by how we act. Jesus was extraordinarily clear when he said in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In nearly a dozen places from Leviticus to James, the “greatest commandment” is reiterated. Love God. Love others – our brothers and sisters in faith and also our neighbors.
My August challenge to you is to read Luke 10:25 – 37. From verses 33-35, identify about 10 specific loving actions that the Good Samaritan did. Write each of these on a small piece of paper. Place all the pieces of paper into container. Starting tomorrow morning, close your eyes and draw out one piece of paper. Ponder what that action might look like in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic. Pray that God will give you an opportunity to love someone in this way, perhaps today, perhaps later this month. Then tuck that paper into an envelope. On the following day, draw a different paper, ponder and pray. Repeat until each piece of paper have been drawn. Who knows how God will lead you to act with love during the upcoming 15 days. You are a sign of God in our broken world. Actions speak louder than words.