I was observing as people came and went in and out of a busy place today. I saw people of all sizes shapes and colors. Whether we realize it or not, we tend to identify people by their race or ethnicity and use that as a means of pointing them out for one reason or another. Now, to be clear I am not talking about slurs or unkind comments or anything that the politically correct police would disapprove of. I am simply stating that we often tell what people group someone belongs to by what we see on the outside in their coloring, facial features or clothing. To hear them speak many times confirms our suspicion.
Can people tell that you belong to the people group known as "Christian?" How would they know that?
We have a church in our general vicinity that is very attractive to youth and the 20-somethings. Many of those Christians are covered in tattoo's, have multiple piercings, and their clothing style is very trendy. Their preferred music is as far away from a hymn as you can get and many don't use a printed Bible, but a tablet or other electronic device on which they access Scripture.
There are branches of Christianity that some say are identifiable by their clothing; the women wear only skirts and dresses, or they have long hair, or wear no makeup on their faces. Some only read a certain version of the Bible, or have no television set, others will not dance or watch a movie in a theater. Certain Christians will not eat pork or other foods, and I have known Christians who insist on wearing a smile and denying they have a problem in the world because it looks more Christian than to admit they struggle.
For us women, we wrongly measure one another's Christianity by the number of children a woman has, if she uses birth control or not, if she home schools or sends her children to public or private school.
Does doing or not doing any of these things make a person more or less Christian? I think not.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)
I believe if we had the ability to see the inner man we would see that there are devout, regenerated believers in both groups, and hypocrites in both groups too!
This is the danger in trying to determine from outward appearances the state of a person's soul. Paul warns the Ephesian church not to judge by the outward appearance, and not to give preferential treatment to someone who comes in the door wearing gold and jewels (1 Tim 2:9).
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 1 Peter 3:3 (NIV)
What then should characterize the "look" of the Christian? These are some of the marks of a Christian; someone who desires to be holy and to live out that internal heart-level decision of holiness in their every day life:
but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:4 (NASB)
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE OF YOU WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.
BE ANGRY, AND YET DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27and do not give the devil an opportunity.
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:25 through Ephesians 4:32 (NASB)
But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. Titus 2:1 through Titus 2:5 (NASB)
... be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. Titus 3:1-2
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Titus 3:9 (NASB)
Unfortunately, in our day there is little difference between many who profess Christ as Savior and Lord and their unregenerated friends and family. The call to holiness has been abandoned for a slick package of religiosity. Drinking, partying, and immorality of all kinds are found among those who look Christian and profess to be Christians and I am adamant when I state as James did: "This should not be!" (James 3:9)
So, how are you known? Is your life displaying the righteous life of Christ? Do your words reflect the grace and truth you claim to possess? Are your actions those of a person who understands that she is a slave to Christ? How have you grown and changed since you professed Christ? These are but a few things to ponder as we go forward in daily life.