When people look at you, who do they see?
Maybe even a better question, when people look at you, who do you WANT them to see?
If most people take a second to think about that question and really search for how they want people to see them, they would come up with all sorts of answers. Some people want to be seen as intelligent, some as competent, some as having a big heart, some as honest.
If you ask most Sunday Schooled Christians about what they want people to see when they see them, their answer is "as a Christian". They go on to quote from Matthew 7 about how good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit and by their fruit you will recognize them. They then go on to live their lives as Christians, set apart from the rest of the world by a set of cultural standards, so that people, especially other Christians, recognize them as a "good Christian person".
How does this manifest itself? In midwestern American culture, it tends to be reflected by the number of Christian knick-knacks in one's home. It's reflected in the percentage of Christian CD's one owns. You know someone is a "good Christian person" when they get invited to a party by a co-worker and they turn down the invitation because, "I'm a Christian and cannot condone a party where alcohol is being consumed." A "good Christian person" won't sit next to or talk to the person at church with all the biker tattoos all over them. When a "good Christian person" sees another Christian struggling with sin, they question whether or not that person is really saved and then avoid them, for fear they might be seen with a "sinner". A "Good Christian person" spends Monday-Saturday filling their heads with Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and anything Fox News decides to air, because of their "good Christian values" and reserves Sunday morning for their "Jesus" time. "Good Christian people" picket outside of strip clubs and abortion clinics and scream damnation at the women coming and going from those buildings, just in case those women didn't already know they were going to hell. "Good Christian people" talk about lining up all the muslims and gays and atheists and executing them, one by one, because they are ruining our "Christian nation" (which is something I actually heard a "good Christian person" say once).
After a description like that, the LAST thing I want to be seen as is a "good Christian person"! Unfortunately, though, this is what most of the non-Christian world sees us as, and even more unfortunate, they aren't that wrong in thinking it.
There is a problem with living your life so that you can be seen as a "good Christian person" and that problem goes back as far as Jesus and the Pharisees. In Matthew 23 (which, if you are not familiar with this chapter, I encourage you to go to this link and read it now), Jesus tears apart the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They were the keepers of the "cultural standards" of the time. The standards may have started out biblical, but over time were morphed into a body of laws that were more suffocating than sanctifying. No longer was the goal righteousness and reconciliation, but it now was about satisfying the religious dogma and gaining prestige among the religious elite.
It was more about saying, "I'm better than you", than "How can I love and serve you?"
And Jesus was disgusted by it. He called it out for what it was, pure evil, or perhaps worse, because they were masquerading as representatives of Almighty God.
So how do we avoid this? How do we live lives "set apart" without becoming as the Pharisees were?
We need to live so that when people look at us, instead of seeing our accomplishments or our strengths or weaknesses or even instead of seeing us as Christians, people need to be able to look at us and see Jesus. We need to completely lose our identity in Jesus Christ. Isn't that all a Christian really should be? Someone who when Jesus says, "Follow me," they drop everything they are and follow Him? It is very simple, but not so easy to do.
So what does this look like? How does losing your identity in Jesus look different than losing your identity in the Christian culture? You have to look at the overall message of Jesus' teaching and make that the overall message of your life. And what is that message? In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
The answer is love. Love God and love people. Let Christ-like love be your first approach to everything you do. Even more, in all things, say "yes" to love, and "no" to pride, since pride is at the root of all sin. Living in love, you will be set apart. People will recognize you as different. They will look at you and know you aren't one of those "good Christian people". They will look at you and see nothing but Christ. How better for a non-believer to come to know, love and serve Jesus, than to have Him working at the desk next to them, standing behind them in the check-out line, or living down the street from them? Not someone who will condemn them into heaven, but someone who will love them into repentance.
And if you do nothing else, turn off Fox News and go love somebody.