One Outstanding Characteristic of Great Christians


It is with great humility that I share that God has richly blessed me through the lives of great Christian people I have known personally. It is with great sadness also that I confess that I have not known many such people, far fewer than I should, and not through any fault of my own.

That unique person who seems to walk with God in some deep relationship that appears unfathomable is a rarity. More than anything else, I wish I could be one of those people, though it seems like my own failings and the circumstances I encounter daily conspire against me. I still hope though.

In meditating on these great Christian people I have known, one characteristic shines brightly: Every last one of them always tried to see the best in people they encountered. It didn’t matter if those people they encountered were worthy of being thought of as best in anything, outstretched handthose great Christian people treated them as if they were.

If there is a sign of our times, it’s that we always tend to think the worst of others. We see them only as foes, as sinners, as people of low thinking, idiots, fools, perverts, jerks, libertines, and a host of other labels easily applied and—potentially—accurate.

But great Christians choose not to see people that way. They see them as they could be. They see them as they should be. They offer respect when none is deserved. And they respond to people in such a way that their caring and love helps raise others to the level of vision those great Christians possess. Great Christians elevate everyone around them and make them want to be better people.

I knew a great Christian once who was certainly not someone who at first glance would seem to be an exemplar of distinction. In a crowd, you would miss him. He didn’t talk fast or use big words. He never got beyond a high school education, and he lived in some podunk town off the beaten path. But I watched that man embrace a known drug dealer one day and the drug dealer called him “sir.” That great Christian knew who and what that man was and loved him anyway. I saw tears in that drug dealer’s eyes, and they were there because he saw past the insignificance of a great Christian’s exterior and saw Jesus Christ in all His glory in that great Christian’s interior. We all knew something happened to that drug dealer right then and there. He was convicted by Christ in another, all without a word needing to be spoken. Because of love. And because a simple man of God chose to reach out to the one person everyone else in the room avoided.

Great Christians don’t see the drug dealer. They see the person in pain who is lost and in need of Jesus. And those great Christians become Jesus to him or her.

We live in an age where the defense of our position, our rightness, our superiority over perceived foes and infidels, is the characteristic most admired in others. Yet the true nature of God is antithetical to this. Instead, He works through great Christians who are willing to see more in others than a practice or ideology opposed to their own.

Do you and I see the best in others? Does our presence raise up others? Are we winsome and attractive? Or do we scare off the spiritually needy with our need to be portrayed as paragons of truth and righteous ire?

When you and I were nothing, Jesus reached out to us and made us something. How can we offer anything less to those people who most need Him?

The Question Ignored By Christian Authorities, Leaders, Pundits, and Bloggers


The Internet is filled with words. The Christian section of it too.

To waltz into the Christian ghetto online will get you beaten about the head and neck with every sort of opinion, doctrinal refinement, and thought balloon. Yet it seems to me that for all the punditry and supposed solutions to all of life’s problems that the online Church says it answers, almost every source of solutions ignores the foundational question that most people in the world today ask:

Does anyone care that I exist?

Sadly, that’s not a question we are answering well in the contemporary Church. We can say “God loves you,” but we don’t offer most people much flesh and blood proof of that truth.Lonely in a crowd I suspect it’s all too common for a person to walk into a typical church on Sunday with that question burning in the heart and leave an hour later with it unresolved—and perhaps even unadressed entirely. That a person can be utterly alone in a church packed with people…well, it happens, doesn’t it?

So what difference does all the talk on the Internet make if all these authoritative voices have so little impact on that most pressing of all inquiries?

The tangential issue that bothers me most about that unresolved question is that I wonder if any of the Christians behind the voices on the Internet (and outside it) even bother to wonder what it is like to be someone else. Do we ever put ourselves into the lives of other people? Do we consider how they live, struggle, cope, and adjust?

It doesn’t seem as if we do. What else explains the hamfisted way in which we deal with others? What else answers how agendas, programs, and initiatives steamroll real people? Or how people can encounter us and not be changed by the Jesus we say lives in our hearts?

Other people simply are not on our radar.

I am convinced that the only thing that will snap us out of our cocoons of self is personal tragedy. We have to suffer greatly before we begin to wonder how other people live, especially if we find ourselves alone in the midst of that suffering.

I would think that it wouldn’t have to go that far, that the Holy Spirit would be enough to enlighten us to the need for dealing with humanity’s brutal question, but it doesn’t seem as if He is getting through to us. Not that He is somehow insufficient, only that we stuff our ears with “our lives” so as to block His shouts.

Someday in the American Church, a group of people will wake up and help others answer the question of whether or not anyone genuinely cares if they exist. Those pioneers will demonstrate that care too.

It can’t happen soon enough. More power to ’em.

Not-So-Good Samaritans


Driving to church Sunday morning at 8:15 a.m., I spotted a man walking on the other side of the divided highway. Having never seen a pedestrian on our highway in nearly eight years of living in the area, I found him incongruous. He wore casual business clothes, something out of a Dockers ad, and had a nice outdoor jacket with the collar turned up. He looked about 40, with that quintessential “used to be an athlete, but now gone to mush” body type. Heading into the rising sun, he kept his eyes straight ahead, content to seer his retinas.

Of course, I looked for the broken-down car, but there wasn’t one. Nor was he in an area that had many houses or destinations nearby.

He was just out of place.

And I had places to go.

I soon reached the horizon point for assistance and crossed over into that land of questions and regret. When I prayed for insight into the man’s disposition, the image I got in my head was of him walking for miles until he came to a lake, whereupon he continued his stroll and let the waters come up over his head until there was nothing left of him to see.

Barring the truth that I had been up too late the night before, plus being useless for anything before 10 a.m., I didn’t give the image much thought. But then the message at church touched on the desperation many Americans feel right now, and the image of the man walking into the lake jarred me.

Driving home, the parable of the Good Samaritan popped into my head. What got me was the idea that the man left beaten by robbers bore contusions that marked him as a victim of violence. His wounds cried out. A quick visual would tell anyone that this was someone in dire need of medical attention.

But what of the people who have been mugged by life, whose bruises are internal, on the soul, the psyche, who have been beaten up by simply existing? Walking into the waters...They look normal on the outside, but on the inside they are hemorrhaging emotionally. Because we can’t see the wounds, we think everything is peachy with them—until one day they get up, put on a nice pair of slacks with coordinating shirt, tell the wife they’re going to clear their head by taking a morning constitutional, turn up their jacket collar against the world, gently close the door behind them, and proceed to walk into dark, chill waters.

I don’t think we have ever had the opportunity in our lifetimes (speaking of those under 50) to reach out to desperate people in search of greater meaning than we do now. If I were a leader in a large Protestant denomination or parachurch ministry, I’d have someone shooting a commercial to air on TV at every opportunity that says, Each of us has a story.  We will listen to yours and help you write a better ending. Because Jesus cares, we care, too. Your story matters to us.

I think millions of people out there are dying for someone, anyone, to care. Listening has never been a great strength of modern Christians, but I’m convinced that we have got to get better at doing it. Not offering advice, not quoting Romans 8:28 at people, but just listening. The need for this kind of ministry has never been greater.

But it takes time. It means laying down your life, not in a “bloody martydom” sort of way, but laying down schedules and busyness. Because taking the time to listen takes…well, time. It takes commitment to listen to someone who is hurting. Sure, we may take time for people laid up in the hospital after being in a physical car wreck, but what time are we willing to give to people who have been in a mental one?

Some of us long for opportunities to be Good Samaritans, yet we ignore this vital, vital means to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted. It’s not as flashy. Nor is it over quickly. But God knows it’s never been more needed.