“What do you stand for?” is something I hear routinely in social settings when questions arise about my faith. This is then frequently followed by the statement, “I know what you are against, but what are you for?” That is an unfortunate indictment of modern Christianity, but it makes me wonder: what does it look like to be a Christian in our culture?
Recently, while reading the book of Colossians, I took particular note of a passage where the Apostle Paul was writing to address Christ-centred living. The point this passage makes will help in guiding us toward answering what we ought to stand for:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17)
Tony Campolo once said, “Love the sinner and hate your own sin.” Yet, those of us who are living for Christ often want to showcase that we’re different by pointing to the sinful ways of others. We forget that internal reflection is more important than external. If you don’t know what that means, try studying Scripture with a notepad and a mirror sometime.
Paul’s words were, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Are you clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience today? Are you living a life for Jesus, trying to reflect Him in all that you do? If we want to live for Christ, like Paul writes about, then rather than having people recognize us for what we are against, let’s take time to show them what we stand for.
What is it that we are to stand for then? I would point to this part of the above verses, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” What we must stand for is love! Love is the action, attitude and intention in serving others – putting them before ourselves. We don’t express love when we point to the faults of others, ignorant of the faults in our own lives. Henri Nouwen has said, “When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative.” As we strive to reflect Christ in today’s culture, let’s challenge ourselves to focus internally, pray intentionally, and live for Jesus. May we be clothed in the attributes of Christ, model what we stand for, and always love others to best of our God-given ability.