“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches…” Proverbs 22:1 (KJV)
When I was growing up and would leave my parents to go off with a friend or to spend the night with someone, Dad always offered me the same parting piece of advice. I remember one time in particular, he and Mom dropped me off at the mall to shop with my best friend, Tammy. As I was getting out of the car, Dad faithfully said those words of caution to me again. “Always remember, Cheryl. Whatever you do, however you act…it is a direct reflection on your Mom and me.” Whew! That would always put the fear in me, and I know it kept me on the straight and narrow more times than I can even remember! Why? I didn’t want to make Mom and Dad look bad. If my behavior was going to directly reflect on them…well, it sure made me stop and think before I acted. I wanted others to see them as the good people and caring parents they truly were.
Having and maintaining a good family name is important to parents…especially to fathers, it seems. Kevin’s Dad’s last name is very important to him. He has always taught Kevin to cherish it and to keep it reputable and respected by the life he lives day by day. He shows great pride in the fact that Kevin is carrying on his name, and now Zachary is doing the same, as his grandson. I have heard him mention many times, with pride, that Zachary is carrying on the “Smith” name. Sure, it is an overwhelmingly common name. But, he is most concerned about his bloodline and how his ancestry will be made to look to the world.
Both of our fathers instilled in Kevin and me a concern about how we presented our “name” to the world around us. They taught us that our family name means something and our behavior outside of their presence could either display a positive or a negative reflection upon it.
One day, we were both adopted into another family…the family of God. God became our Heavenly Father, and Jesus our spiritual Brother. A great price was paid for our adoption, and much love was invested in us. We took on a new name…the name of Christian. From that point on, we had the choice of making our Father and our Brother either look good or bad to the world around us. Every act, word, tone of voice, and mannerism we present to the world is either making a positive or a negative impression. And, more importantly, it is either presenting Christianity in a negative or a positive light.
God, our Heavenly Father, has a deep concern about the way His name is presented to the world. Mom always told me that watching a Christian life is the only Bible some people will ever read. What a responsibility that places upon us, as Christians!! If someone in your life is “reading the Bible” solely by watching your life, what are they reading? And if you profess to be a CHRISTian, how is Christ being presented to the world around you?
We aren’t responsible for, nor can we control, the actions of those around us. We can’t make the grocery store cashier or the waitress or our spouse or children have a kind, loving way about them. They come into the situation with their own issues and circumstances. We are not accountable for their actions. However, we ARE responsible for our REactions to what they do and say.
I went into a health store one day, and I needed assistance from the clerk. I could see right off the bat that she had a very condescending, domineering way about her that was very offensive. It was one of those situations where you just wish you could avoid the salesperson altogether, but I needed her to direct me to where to find something. I was in a hurry and my elderly mother was waiting in the car. She showed me where to find what I needed, and I proceeded to go to the counter to complete the transaction. When she rang it up, the price was way more than I thought it should have been. I asked her about it, and she became very defensive and started raising her voice at me. I hate to confess it, but before I realized it, I came right back at her trying to explain my concern about the price and trying to get my point across. Thankfully, she, Zachary, and I were the only ones in the store….well, I probably shouldn’t say thankfully Zachary was there. It hurt me to think he saw me react to her the way I did.
I remember the moment it hit me that I was not reflecting a positive light on who Jesus is. I felt so ashamed! I stopped what I was doing…right then and there. I looked her square in the eye, and I said, “Ma’am, I am so sorry. I am a Christian, and I did not mean to talk to you the way I just did. Please forgive me.” It completely caught her off guard! She began to change her whole attitude, and she calmly explained the price to me. I finally understood what she was trying to tell me, and I left the store with a mixture of feeling ashamed over my behavior and humbled by having needed to apologize.
When we got outside, I ardently apologized to Zachary and told him how sorry I was that he saw me react that way. It made my family look bad, and more importantly, it made Jesus look bad. It didn’t matter that “she started it” or that I was simply trying to defend my position. What mattered is that I didn’t react to her actions in the right tone of voice or in a Christlike way. I saw a sign that read something like this….“90% of everyday stress is caused by tone of voice.”
We all have our moments when we are not feeling well, we’re stressed, or someone rubs us the wrong way, and we react in ways that “come short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:23 (KJV) I’m glad we serve a merciful and forgiving God, aren’t you? One Who places great value on His name, but is quick to forgive us when we fail to uplift and exalt it! May God keep us ever conscious that by professing His name, people expect us to be like Him and act like Him. May the real Jesus always shine through!