by Judy Douglass
The young woman who would be my seatmate on the flight had a very heavy carry-on bag. The overhead bin seemed full, but the coat of the man in front of us was taking up half of it. He told her that her bag was too big and that was his space.
He was rude. She was bewildered.
I spoke up, reminding him calmly but firmly that the bin was shared space and his coat could go on top of the suitcase. He grumbled as he lifted his coat out. I helped her lift her bag.
Later the young woman turned to me and said, "Why are you so different? Why did you do that for me?" We had a wonderful conversation about our Lord.
This was evidence of the lived-out gospel. I wish I always lived it out well.
When we tell someone who doesn't know us about Christ, God can use the combined power of the truth of the gospel and His grace to open a heart to repentance and salvation ... even using imperfect vessels like us to communicate His message. But often winning takes time and relationship, especially in a generation where relationship is supreme. We must live out the gospel before them even as we tell them the truth.
What does the lived-out gospel look like? God gives us many characteristics of the Spirit-filled life as evidence of this. Three stand out to me as key:
Without question, the first is love. The Lord Jesus Himself said the first commandment is to love God, then others. He even said we are to love as He loved, which was to lay down his life.
Are we to literally lay down our lives for others? Some of us may be asked to make that sacrifice. But most of us give our lives to people in love by giving of our time, our abilities, our finances. Sometimes love is just being there. Other times we love by listening, encouraging, praying. Sometimes we give the shirts off our backs, or buy a meal or provide shelter. This lived-out love is a powerful witness.
A second witness is grace. Grace is often an unclear or vague concept for us, so here are a few synonyms to help us grasp the meaning of this essential truth: mercy, forgiveness, benevolence, charity, clemency, compassion, favor, forbearance, generosity, goodwill, goodness, kindness, leniency, pardon, reprieve, responsiveness, tenderness.
Grace doesn't hold a grudge, or refuse to forgive, or demand what's due or insist on its own way. Grace does overlook an offense, extend time or help, speak kindly when verbally attacked, believe the best about another.
Lived-out grace is a powerful witness.
A third evidence of walking with God is authenticity. How many times have you heard someone say something about "hypocrites in the church"? Authenticity means we speak truth in a generation with no absolutes. We live what we say as much as possible; we wear no masks. We consider the impact our words and actions have on those watching. We are even willing to be vulnerable.
Those are risky actions. We could be misunderstood, disapproved of, even shunned or taken advantage of. But we wouldn't be hypocrites. We would be true, real ... authentic.
And lived-out authenticity is a powerful witness.
May we live out the gospel with love, grace and authenticity so that people will actually see Jesus in us.
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