Rules upon Rules upon Rules. Spiritual Armor. Moving on to the Next Letter.
“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”
Ephesians 4:1b (NIV)
All religions come with their stereotypical behaviors, and why wouldn’t they? If a group of people dedicate their lives to a spiritual following, then of course their actions will shift into some identifiable norm according to the statutes commanded of them. Some religions demand stricter behaviors, and so their followers become more uniform.
For instance, it is far easier for you to identify a devout Muslim than a Universalist. The reason is obvious (and no, not because of skin color). Islam requires its followers to participate in structured prayer, precise dress, and a restricted diet. Universalists, on the other hand, have very few (or arguably no) laws governing its people. It is much more of a loose mindset for processing life experiences and turning a kind face to your neighbor.
Mormons also tend to be devout – you can catch them avoiding R-rated movies, abstaining from caffeine, and going on a two-year mission somewhere in the midst of their college years. They are also some of the nicest people you will ever find. You might be able to point a Sikh out from a crowd because of his distinctive dress or identify a Buddhist from her daily meditation and calm demeanor.
So how can we point a Christian out from the crowd?
Paul uses the second half of Ephesians to tell the eponymous city exactly how they ought to act as Christians. We have heard most of what he lists before. Avoid falsehood (4:25). Do not sin in anger (26). Never steal (27). Do not speak unwholesome words (29). Get rid of bitterness and rage (31). Be kind and compassionate (32).
There is some talk of sexual immorality, gossip, unwise actions, and husband-wife relations – all of which you can probably guess the Bible’s stance.
So then, when you see someone kind and gentle, honest and humble – do you immediately think that they are Christian?
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
The loudest members of a group tend to dominate the conversation, which tends to be why negative stereotypes linger in the memory. Play a game of word association, and you’ll find “Muslim” paired often with “terrorist,” “Jew” with “cheap,” and “Christian” with “bigot.” Every religion fights their own stereotypes, and it’s led some followings to resort to PR campaigns in order to change the public’s view.
I’ve been thinking about what I would look like if I gave in fully to Christianity again. What would that mean for my behavior – would it change my demeanor? Would it be something I could proclaim loudly without embarrassment, or is it something I would leave off my life resume?
Because honestly, I have had some incredible role models of Christianity and some truly damaging ones. I’m only human, so you can guess which ones have lingered.