When my Dad was my age, he and his buddy John wanted to do something reckless late one night. But my Dad and his friend were also passionate for Christ and spreading the gospel- constantly looking for ways to live like Jesus and tell more people about Him. However, teenage kids are gifted in the area of rebelliousness, even if they want to live like Christ. My Dad and his buddy decided to take the best of both of these passions, so they grabbed a can of spray paint, quietly snuck of their houses, and discreetly rushed to a big intersection nearby. During the day these streets were packed with cars and bustling with traffic, but in the stillness of the night, it was just the two of them there. They crept out into the middle of the road, pulled out the can of spray-paint, shook it up, and spray-painted the name “JESUS” in huge letters across the black pavement.
After I heard this story from my Dad a few times, it got me thinking: what if sometimes, instead of actually living like Jesus, we just spray-paint his name somewhere and leave for good? I think a lot of times instead of loving people well and investing in them, instead of speaking truth into people’s lives, and instead of really showing grace and kindness, we just do a name-drop of Jesus’s name and tell people we’re Christians, and then do nothing about it. My Dad and I have driven over that road a few times since then, and the thing about spray-paint is, it’s not permanent. Going no further than telling someone you’re a Christian, or when two Christians are friends but don’t talk about Christ, or believing in God but not living like it, is worthless.
1 Corinthians 5:20-21 says:
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Ambassadors is a heavy title to carry. That means we should expect all of our words and actions to be held to the highest standards by the world.
I leave for South Africa in a little less than a month. I’ve been learning a whole lot lately about what it looks like when I don’t just spray-paint Jesus’s name places, but I let that paint cover all of who I am and really start to live like it, and really bean ambassador. It’s really scary to let God into every crack and crevice of your heart. Honestly, I struggle a lot to do that, even though I feel like I am; but a lot of times I don’t. I’ve also been learning a lot lately about what real community looks like when it’s centered around Christ. My friends and I have decided to paint our conversations in ways that glorify Christ and point to Him, in ways that make us vulnerable with each other, in ways where we can be completely truthful, and in ways where we can know one another’s hearts fully. This has all been preparation for my trip and for the rest of my life, and I think we should all try figuring out how to let Jesus define all of us instead of just some parts of us.
Another thing I’ve been learning in this time of preparation is that I can’t just spray-paint love onto my friends. It takes real actions and sacrifice, it takes being uncomfortable, and it takes vulnerability to love a friend well, something I’m definitely still working at. John 13:15 says:
There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for their friends.
A memory stands out to me about a person who grasped the meaning of sacrifice to show how much he cared about me; that person is a teacher who taught me back in middle school.
So, I played ice hockey in middle school, and even though I wasn’t great at it, it was super fun. My sixth grade history teacher was named Mr. Waskiewicz, (had to pull out my yearbook to double check the spelling on that one- I’ll call him Mr. W from here on,) and Mr. W was a great teacher, one of the only ones from middle school that I remember well. But it isn’t because of his teaching or his personality that I remember him – it was because on one Monday afternoon I invited him to come to one of my 7:30pm hockey games, which was 45 minutes away from my house- and he came. He showed up, on a school night, on a night he could’ve spent with his wife at home. I didn’t grasp how great this act of kindness was for a few years, and I don’t know if he knew the Lord, but I would bet that he did. I do know that he cared about me and he showed it, and it meant the world to me.
Friendship takes work. Faith takes work. You can’t build a strong relationship with Christ or with your friends by just sitting around and talking about how to do it better. Or sitting on your couch typing about it. Love does stuff, and love is long-term. It doesn’t just spray paint words or phrases here and there and then run away. I’m learning that I can’t put a pause button on either of these things and expect them to remain good or unchanged. I also can’t just text or post about God or my friends and expect that to be enough. (Check out my good friend Vicky’s post on that specific topic here.)
So, what have I learned that I can take with me in the next part of my life? What can you take with you no matter what you’re going through next? Faith and relationships have no pause button, and they take long-term work. Spray-paint is temporary, and cheap name-drops of Christ don’t do anything; live like Christ.
Keep working at these things, and keep pushing on. It’s worth it.