Has anyone ever said something that stuck with you for a long time. You might not have even noticed how it impacted you until months later, and then you remember in an instant those words that branded your heart. I’ve been thinking a lot about something a friend told me when I stopped to visit him at his car wash. He was working on fixing a part for one of the automatic wash bays and asked me if I needed my car washed. I politely declined as we were walking out of his shop and he offered again to send me through the wash. His continued desire to send my car through the wash is not what stuck with me though. It was the words he spoke as he handed me a coupon for a free wash.
“We can’t have you representing The Kingdom with a dirty car.”
I honestly did not think my car was even that dirty, but he insisted that I start in a self-serve bay to be sure that I got the bugs off the front. Regardless of how clean or dirty my car actually was, I had not thought about its condition as a representation of the Kingdom of God. I have strong desire for excellence in everything that I do, but that desire never permeated other areas of my daily life.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks directly to wives, husbands, children, fathers, and slaves, pretty much covering all of his bases. He then goes on to say,
“Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people. You know that it is from the Lord that you will receive the inheritance as a reward. It is the Lord Messiah whom you are serving!”
Colossians 3:23-24 (ISV)
It’s that word “do” that I put a block in my mind about my responsibility as a Christian in the world. As long as I did everything with excellence, I was doing all that I needed to do in representing Christ to others. Having a clean car or more than shorts and flip-flops in my every day attire are seemingly small things, but they are a part of how I present myself. The way I present myself is directly related to how I represent JESUS to the world.
Passages of Scripture like 2 Corinthians 5:20, Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 5:1, and 1 Peter 2:9 point to disciples of CHRIST as HIS ambassadors, GOD’S workmanship, encouraging us to be imitators of GOD, and naming us as a chosen race, royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people of HIS own possession (ESV). A Christian by namesake is a representation of CHRIST called to shine HIS GLORIOUS LIGHT into the darkness. Galatians 3:28 speaks of us all as one in CHRIST, so we also represent The Church everywhere we go.
But aren’t we supposed to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] GOD,” like it says in Micah 6:8 (NIV)? The short answer is yes, but I think many people confuse humility with humiliation. They may have the same root, but they mean very different things. Humility is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.” I would describe humility as understanding and accepting your place in relation to God and others. Oxford Dictionaries defines humiliate as to “make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, especially publicly.” In my own understanding, humiliation is a lower projection of a person than who they really are.
I think a lot of us have been under the impression that humbleness is an act of becoming less than who GOD created us to be, when that is a better description of humiliation. To walk humbly with GOD is to walk in a right relationship with HIM, not elevating yourself higher than your right place. It also involves using the gifts and talents that HE has given you and not acting like a powerless mass with no real purpose in life.
Like so many other aspects of life, there is a delicate balance between humiliation and pride. There is also a balance between presenting oneself (and The Kingdom) in the best way they can without becoming a stumbling block for others (see Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8). I don’t think having a clean car would be a stumbling block for others, but this isn’t just about going through the car wash.
How am I representing The Kingdom? Am I reflecting The Church and JESUS in a way that can draw people towards HIM or that would more likely turn them away? Am I pursuing excellence without boasting in anything other than CHRIST? Am I putting my best foot forward while still walking humbly with GOD? These are question I think we should all be asking ourselves in our pursuit to follow CHRIST and make disciples.