Several years ago there was a TV show called Dinosaurs about a family of dinosaurs. The youngest was a baby who could clearly say Mama, but when the father would try to get the baby to say Dada, the baby would point to him and say “Not the Mama.” It drove the father a bit crazy to say the least.
I have a cat named Meep who is a bit neurotic. The day I found her in my yard, a starving little thing, she bonded with me the moment I picked her up. Since then, she has refused to interact with anyone else except, on occasions, my sister. Everyone else is “Not the Mama.”
I most likely saved her life as she was tiny and starving and alone. The truth is we were all like her before we accepted Christ. We were condemned to death with no hope until he came along and saved us. He then took us in and fed us and gave us living water so that we would never hunger or thirst again. His presence is always with us so that we are never alone.
In light of such an act of love, we should look to God with the same single-minded devotion as Meep shows me. No matter who comes into the house, Meep only listens for my voice. She comes when I call, and she longs to stay at my side. She looks to me to provide for her and take care of her. She relies on me and only me. We should be the same with God. We should look to Him and Him alone for everything we need. We should listen for His voice and long to be in His presence. Everyone else should be “Not the Mama.”
My students were given an assignment to write a paragraph sharing information, first with a friend and then a potential employer to see a contrast in the way we write for different audiences. When faced with a potential opportunity for employment, we put our best foot forward in an effort to make a good impression. Just the other day we were discussing how visitors might perceive our church, and I was struck with the idea that I often put forth more of an effort where I work than I do in church. For example, I work in a yarn shop on Saturdays, and I always try to greet new customers so that they feel welcome and will be repeat customers. Our goal is that all customers will feel as though they are friends and can stop by any time to chat, knit, or share a problem. We consider ourselves a community, and we want all to feel welcome and keep coming back to shop there. I wonder if we have the same thoughtfulness when it comes to church.
In the yarn shop, I am a customer service representative of the shop, the face of the business. The way I interact with people determines whether they come back or not. In church, the members are the face of our “business,” so to speak. In a way we are God’s customer service representatives. How we interact with visitors and nonbelievers may determine whether or not they are repeat customers. Do we make them feel welcome? Do we make them want to come back again? Do we make them want what we have?
It behooves us to take a closer look at the way we “do” church. Do we put out our best effort on Sundays, or do we just interact with the same people? Do we greet visitors with more than a quick handshake, or do we learn their names and something about them? Do we want them to come back, or are we comfortable with our little group as it is? Colossians 3:23 says, “23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” This is never more true than when we are in His house. We often forget that the church belongs to Christ and we are merely his hands and feet in the world, the face the world sees. If we were to get a review from a new “customer”, what would it say?
Everyone once in a while we all need a reality check. It is not fun, but it is necessary to keep us in right standing with both God and our fellow man. It is very easy to point out failures in others and ignore our own. It is even easier to feel superior to others, especially non-believers who are living in the world; however, even missionaries, ministers, and mature Christians need to remember from whence they come.
In the book of Titus, Paul reminds Titus of the gospel. Now Titus was a missionary left by Paul, so why did he feel it necessary to remind Titus of the gospel? Titus 3:3 says, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Another translation says “we too.” At some point even the strongest of Christians was once lost in sin, and we were only saved by the grace of God, not our works. Something we would all do well to remember.
Another thing to keep in mind is that we are still sinners saved by grace and are not impervious to failure ourselves. Matthew 7:3 says, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”Before we start criticizing someone else, we should take a good look in the mirror first. None of us are pure enough to cast stones.
So, the next time you or I are tempted to point out someone’s failures or criticize with a smug smile, I hope we remember from whence we came and take a good look in the mirror. Then, maybe we will find humility and a desire to help instead of criticize. I know this world could use a little more humility and love and a lot less criticism and hate. Like Michael Jackson wrote, “Start with the man in the mirror” if you want to make a change in the world.