For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’
I wonder how often any of us think about how well we represent God to the world around us. I know I’m guilty of getting busy and just living my life of faith without really thinking about how God is perceived by others through me. Yet, that is exactly what St. Paul says was wrong with the Jewish leaders of his day.
The leaders of God’s people in Paul’s day were guilty of boasting about their relationship with God – they were after all, the ‘chosen’ people. Of all the people in the world, God chose the Jews for a relationship through which He would manifest Himself and the Messiah to the world. However, they missed the point of the relationship; it wasn’t just to save them, but everyone else too, that the world may know God through the holy lives of those who believe in Him.
If Lent is a season for an increase in prayer and fasting, and it is, then maybe we need to ask the question – to pray and fast for what? That we grow closer to God? Certainly. But to what end? St. John gives us the answer in what he heard Jesus pray on the last night before the cross.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (emphasis added)
John 17:20-21 ESV
As Christians, we are not only to represent God to the world, but to ‘re-present’ Him by living as one in Him. The problem in our world isn’t much different than in St. Paul’s days. To many of the people of God are living faith for themselves and their own salvation and not that the world may know. When we, the church, lie, cheat and steal, or live in ways that mirror the culture around us, we’re not re-presenting God to them. In fact, we’re causing His Holy Name to be blasphemed, just as Paul said of the Jewish leaders.
“As Christians, we are not only to represent God to the world, but to ‘re-present’ Him by living as one in Him.”
As you journey through this Lenten season, take some time to examine your conscience during your times of fasting and praying. Are you trying to live a life that differs from the world? Are you trying to grow deeper in relationship with Jesus? Sure, it’s hard. Temptation is all around us. But as Jesus said in John 16:33, “But take heart, I have overcome the world!”
As you examine your life, if you see a lot of ashes from the many things you’ve done wrong…remember, God will bring beauty from the ashes.
“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
1 John 4:4
Shalom for a Holy Lent,
image credit: http://www.ccwired.org/sermons/re-presenting-god-part-3/