Over the last few years, I have heard one man preach more than any other. Ron Patterson, Senior Minister of Naples United Church of Christ, has a saying that I have come to appreciate. While he uses many variations, it usually sounds something like this: “You may be the only Jesus some people ever see.”
Let me repeat that before we begin unpacking what it means . . . “You may be the only Jesus some people ever see.” At its core, it suggests that we are called to live out our faith – to be salty disciples, to shine whatever light we may have wherever we may go.
For those who are not following the Way of Jesus, the number one way they form opinions about Christianity is by observing people they think are Christians. And, let me tell you, the opinions they form matter. It is quite possible that by observing you someone will assume that all Christians are just like you.
The first class I led after moving to Florida was on this very topic. It was based on a book titled unChristian, which has a long but important subtitle: “What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity . . . And Why it Matters.” It explores research done by the Barna Group on what young outsiders think about Christianity. These young people were aged 16 to 29 and represent a group that was then some 24 million strong who were outside the Christian faith.
The most common favorable impression of Christianity is one that makes us taste bland or salt-free: more than 4 out of 5 young outsiders think “Christianity teaches the same basic idea as other religions.”
Every other descriptor that young outsiders favored is negative. As a whole these labels suggest . . . (read full manuscript)
The call to be salt and light is a call to be authentic disciples. It requires that people who follow the Way of Jesus avoid living in a bubble filled only by others who adhere to such a Way, and actively participate in the wider culture. This isn’t about converting others; it is about allowing them to see Jesus in us.
- How does recognizing that you may be the only Jesus some people ever see impact how you seek to live out your faith?
- Choose any religion that no one in your immediate family or closest circle of friends practices. Explore how your interactions with people of that religion have helped for your current understanding of it.