The owner of a candy store noticed that one of his salesgirls would have customers lined up waiting for her even as his other girls stood by doing nothing. Perplexed by this, he went to the girl and asked for her secret. She answered, “The other girls scoop up more than the requested amount of candy and then start taking away. I scoop up less and then add to it.”
It’s all about perception, isn’t it? Those customers were perceiving themselves to be getting more candy from that salesgirl, even though they really weren’t. Of course, that’s the problem with perception: it usually bears little semblance to the truth.
We Christians must admit that the perception lost people have of us usually isn’t all that glowing. They perceive us to be hypocritical, judgmental, bigoted, closed-minded, ignorant, irrational, and angry. Admittedly, some Christians can rightly be classified under each of those adjectives. There are many Christians, however, who can’t, and these are the ones who can’t be so easily explained away by lost people.
A world traveler visited the land of what had once been a savage race of cannibals. Actually, the only reason the man could even visit the land was because Christian missionaries had previously blazed the trail, learned the language, and won many of those cannibals to Christ. As the traveler struck up a conversation with one of the natives, he couldn’t resist sharing his views on Christianity with the native. He said, “I myself have no use for the religion. I don’t believe the Bible to be anything other than a man-made book. I don’t believe that Jesus was God in the flesh. And I don’t believe that I will somehow be changed if I believe in Him as my Savior.” To that the native answered, “My friend, if Jesus does not change lives, you would be in a pot by now.”
Is that story real? I doubt it. But could it be? Absolutely! As 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.
The test that we Christians must pass daily is that of making the reality of this change align with the world’s perception of us. Putting it another way, we’ve got to act “new.” If we continue to commit our same old sins and hold to our same old wrong attitudes, that will create a false perception of us. Lost people will look at us and think, “I guess that Jesus thing didn’t work out so well.” On the other hand, if we exhibit a genuine change from cannibalistic to cordial (to go back to my illustration), from hypocritical to holy, from angry to affable, from judgmental to just, etc., then they won’t be able to dismiss us so quickly. And that is why it is so important that we walk the walk in addition to talking the talk.