An argument breaks out in Genesis 13. “Quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot.” It all had to do with grazing rights.
The Bible then adds something striking: “The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.” In other words, they were watching.
It is easy to forget that we are the only Bible some people read. What if the type is blurred? What if the lines are crooked?
Christ has placed His own name on us – “Christians.” What if we ruin the family name by unChrist-like lives? What if we fail to live up to what the French call our noblesse oblige – our station in life? You know, if you are king then act like a king. What if we forget our God-given pedigree as the blood-bought, baptized sons and daughters of the Most High? What if we do not conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?
Years ago, a fellow named Sheppard wrote: “It is strange what little things will choke a youngster off religion. As an undergraduate I lost for a time what little faith I had because I saw a bishop unable to take a beating at tennis like a gentleman. A poor faith mine, you say. Yes, undoubtedly. But if Christianity does not prevent one of its leading exponents from behaving like a cad when he loses a game, it is a bad lookout for the rest of us.”
The identifying marks of the true Church are not the jaded, imperfect lives of its members. The marks of the Church are the gospel purely preached and the sacraments rightly administered.
In one way or another, beset by struggles with our own sinful natures, we Christians often fail to put our lives where our mouths are. We must humbly confess this and lay it at the foot of the cross. But our failures do not invalidate the gospel, or excuse those who thumb their nose at Christ.
That being said, it was to people who failed to live up to the faith they professed that Paul once wrote: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you!” Why would any Canaanite, Perizzite, or any other stranger to the household of God want to give a hearing to Christ’s gospel when those who claim to believe it on Sunday morning do not remotely resemble it the rest of the week?
The question is as valid in Bangor as it is anywhere else: “If we were placed on trial for being Christians, would there be enough evidence to convict us?” The Canaanites and the Perizzites are watching. The world is watching. The children are watching. So is Christ.