Cozied inside the silver Civic, my husband and I removed the For Sale signs from the window and maneuvered out of the parking lot for a test drive. We slid buttons, turned knobs, opened compartments and flipped visors. Would this become our next 'new' used car?
I pushed all the preselected radio set buttons and found myself trying to analyze the owner's interests by the stations he had selected. It appeared he liked public radio, pop music, and classical symphonies. I found myself wanting to judge his spiritual condition by what his fingertips weren't choosing as preferred stations. Like the numerous Christian listening choices we have available in our area. How unfair of me and definitely not conclusive!
Several occasions recently have made me wonder, though, about how we can identify other believers. While I can't determine someone's salvation by the radio he listens to, it might be a clue that a person is interested or familiar with Christianity if Casting Crowns or Third Day boomed forth after a button tap.
In Bible study this week, the question came up as to what we look for as clues that someone is a believer. One lady said kindness, or the light shining from their faces. Another thought speech gave it away. "Wouldn't it be great if there was some sign only believers could see and communicate to each other?", the women on my left voiced. It happened in the Left Behind book series, when the end time mark of the beast meant believers had to know who was on the same side in order to keep from death or persecution.
Christian traditions says that early believers used the sign of the fish to secretly identify each other.
"Greeks, Romans, and many other pagans used the fish symbol before
Christians. Hence the fish, unlike, say, the cross, attracted little
suspicion, making it a perfect secret symbol for persecuted believers.
When threatened by Romans in the first centuries after Christ,
Christians used the fish to mark meeting places and tombs, or to
distinguish friends from foes. According to one ancient story, when a
Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one
arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the
other arc, both believers knew they were in good company. Current
bumper-sticker and business-card uses of the fish hearken back to this
What about me? How long would it take for a stranger who knew and loved Jesus to know that I loved him to? Depending on the day, it might be covered up pretty good. Instead of a serene face, I might look worried or more often distracted. My words might be sharp rather than graceful when someone overcharges me, is rude or refuses to give me proper customer service. I might be exhausted and just not feel like being available to the people I encounter in public. I know someone (in fact I know her well) who was in such a hurry the other day that she ducked into a different store isle when she saw a friend in the distance just so she could avoid any conversation.
In the bank yesterday, a few people were throwing speech back and forth to each other as we waited in line. An elderly gentleman who we had no difficulty hearing, was sharing freely about how he suspected the unwelcome weather was a test from God to help us learn patience. He went on to proclaim God's work with him and true things about who God was..kind of generally to no one in particular, but not obnoxiously, just boldly. Several nodded their heads his direction and because he was directly behind me, I added some amens and affirmed his words to let him know I agreed and was listening. It wasn't long before his positive statements became personal expressions of hope as he told me his longing to see his wayward son come back to the faith. This father's heart was heavy and his voice broke and his eyes teared as he shared. But he was praying and believing God to intervene. Our turns were next at the counter, and when I was done I passed him, gently patted his arm and encouraged him not to give up. I knew he wouldn't, and I added a prayer for the son as I headed to my car.
Isn't it refreshing to hear someone unabashedly, shamelessly letting his Christianity show? It was almost uncomfortable for me at first; what will everyone around us think? Is this guy off his rocker? Is what he's saying the truth? Isn't he worried about everyone knowing about his private life? I'm so glad I listened and showed him sympathy. For those few minutes I jumped in the ring with him, witnessed his fighting tactics and tenacity and was able to cheer him on, and hopefully pull a few punches to our common enemy myself.
Jesus said the world will know we love him when we love each other. We belong to a great big family of much diversity and often no outward resemblance. Yet, we have our Daddy's heart and his eyes of love and his accent that should give us away as his children. We were born into this family and we share the same inheritance.
Whether, then, I'm buying a car, shopping or banking or whatever I do, I want to act and speak like my Daddy's child. Even in the times when self squelches Spirit, I can ask forgiveness not just from the Father, but from those I've wronged. That's a birthmark that stands out!
I am so grateful that you have accepted me into your family, Father. Help me love all my brothers and sisters as you love us. Help us to boldly bare your insignia so the world may see and want to belong to you, too.
This song will take you back, but it's words never grow old.
They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love