Recently Brad and I read an article with a challenging illustration. It noted what many who teach about God observe: people who are not Christians often misunderstand us. [I would also observe that many in the church do not understand what they hear.] That writer said he attempted to "see" us through the eyes of an outsider observing us as we "drive by" his or her life. The writer compared what he saw to a rusty car moving in jerks as it spewed the odor and smoke of burning oil. We inside the car talk about the smooth ride. Observers outside the car wonder if we ever look at ourselves.

The article was not negative, just factual. The problem is OLD. When I was a boy many years ago, adults talked about the same situation. They talked about "seeing ourselves as others see us."

The objective is not to deceive or create false impressions. Yet, this is factual: others often cannot see God because they cannot see past us. Others often do not understand what we say about God because they do not understand what we say or do.

We take pride in distinctive worship practices, but often our everyday behavior resembles people who have little knowledge of God. We use our language in our writings, sermons, and classes as we talk to ourselves. We seldom realize someone who is not a part of us does not understand us. When words or concepts are used to connect to their minds, we get upset at our own speaker because he or she is not using our language.

If you think we do not confuse those observing us from outside "the car" as we drive by, consider our present national crisis. This is an extremely complex moment in American history. I certainly do not have the answers. My point is simple: do we confuse others "who are not a part of us"?

Terrorists injected fear into our lives. For most of us, this is our first experience with the danger of uncertainty. Before September 11 we asked ourselves the question in hundreds of ways, "What would Jesus do?" After September 11 many who asked that question were for bombing [as long as it took] to destroy the terrorists. Are God's values for humanity relevant only if we have peace in our lifestyle? In your understanding, what eternal realities confront those who die?

Recently I heard the question, "How can Christians who oppose abortion in this country think that widespread death is the answer in another country?" If we disregard the selfishness factor and the self-interest factor, that immediately is a complex question. Suddenly "them" issues are "me" issues.

What do our attitudes toward the current crisis say to others about our God?

Thanks to those who pray for our enemies in our public prayers. I appreciate your attitude and your prayers.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 28 October 2001

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