Parents know that their children’s eyes are on them, watching their every move. A baby will try to imitate the faces that her caregiver makes at her. A toddler will want to “cook” with pans or push a broom just like mommy. A preschooler wants to use the computer or wash the car like daddy. If a child sees a parent pray and read the Bible, he or she will want to do that as well. Unfortunately, children also pick up our bad habits as any one who has ever had a child repeat a four-letter word used in a moment of forgetfulness can attest to!
Our children aren’t the only ones watching us. I’m sure you have heard someone say some version of the following: “Church-goers are such hypocrites! They go to Church on Sunday but they go around doing bad things the rest of the week.” People know if we go to Church and they watch us more closely. Justified or not, they expect more from us. The expectations are even higher for those who exercise ministry in the Church. Jesus said, “It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples” (John 13:35). If we profess to be Christian, this is the standard by which we will be judged.
Obviously, none of us are perfect. It has been said that the only perfect Church is the one we aren’t in. That is true. At least in this world, the people of God is made up of a lot of flawed human beings. We become selfish, we break the commandments, and we make mistakes. We also seek forgiveness and get up and try again.
And yet, love is the standard. Do people see us loving our neighbor? Do they see us treating those around us with kindness? Do they see us caring for our children in a respectful manner? Do they see us doing our jobs in an ethical manner – treating others as we would want to be treated? Do they see us caring for the elderly and the poor? Do they hear us saying good things about others rather than spreading idle gossip? Do they see us forgiving those who have hurt us? Do they see us radiating the joy that comes from love?
Jesus has provided us with a roadmap for living as his disciples. If we want to attract people to our faith, to join us in the pews and as workers for Christ, we need to show that this way of life is an attractive one. We need to demonstrate that our faith does impact the way that we live. We can’t spend our 45 minutes at Church on Sunday and think that we have done our duty. We need to have the love of Christ affect all that we do.
Just as our children watch to see what we are doing and try to imitate us, those who are observing us as Christians will want to imitate us as well if we provide a positive example. Yes, the standard is high, but Jesus has faith in us. He calls us to “be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) While we may never reach that state here on earth, it certainly does give us something to strive for. Next time you are thinking of engaging in some behavior that doesn’t meet the “love your neighbor” standard, think of the eyes that are watching you. Try to be a good advertisement for the Christian way of life.