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“Christian” is a lousy adjective

A Jewish lady answered a knock at her door. The young man asked her if she wanted her house painted. It needed painting, so she took his card. She noticed a fish symbol on the card and asked him what it meant. “It means I’m a Christian painter,” he said.

In my opinion, calling yourself a “Christian” anything presents two problems. First, no one has ever explained to me what a Christian is in Biblical terms. Any definition fails to capture what Jesus taught us about following Him.

And second, using “Christian” to describe a “painter” does not help me learn anything about the person holding the brush and ladder. Does a “Christian painter” paint differently from a “Catholic painter” or a “Muslim painter” or, “atheist painter”? The woman wanted her house painted. All she cared about was whether or not the guy could paint.

Too many times I think folks use “Christian” to describe their business to persuade their customers they’re more honest or ethical than “non-Christian” businesses. That somehow their “Christian business” ethics or integrity or quality of work is superior to their competitors who don’t flash a “Christian” label in their front window or on their business cards.

Too often we hear stories of bad experiences some consumers have with “Christian” businesses who flash their fish symbols then act just like the world in the market place. Those “Christian” business folks drive people away from The church and away from Jesus. One bad “Christian” business deal can destroy dozens of potential good business deals with authentic followers of Jesus who take Jesus to work every day.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. Colossians 3:23

Authentic followers of Jesus don’t have to flash a “Christian” label to attract more customers, or to describe one’s integrity or character. Authentic followers of Jesus don’t have to convince others of their faith. The way we love others is all we need to bear witness to our integrity and our character.

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A 13-Year Old’s Thoughts On Race Relations

By Jalen Phifer forjohn ed
John Ed Mathison
Executive Director,
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

For the past five years I have preached each year at the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church on their race relations Sunday. This is one of our largest African-American churches. Dr. G. W. C. Richardson is the Pastor. In his 35+ years at the church he has had 140 people enter the ministry. He encouraged people to write essays on race relations. A 13-year-old young man, Jalen Phifer, who is already an ordained pastor by that church, wrote the following essay I edited for length:

“We live in a country that has seen its share of shame. From slavery to racism and discrimination, yet America has come a long way. The civil rights movement was a huge step in the right direction to bridge the gap and bring about equality and unity. However, as a nation we still have a journey to complete. I have listed three ways in which I believe America can continue to improve upon race relations.

Race relations can be improved in America if we bring the conversation into our homes and schools. All education starts at home, but it continues into the classrooms where we spend a good portion of our day. Parents can talk to their children about other races. This kind of education will help break down any stereotypes and ignorance that are believed.

I believe it is important to have these conversations in school because if my peers don’t get to learn from each other, then our future is still at risk. As a light skin person, I have heard my share of hurtful and ignorant statements. Everything from mulatto, to white boy, to what are you anyway? Hurtful as they are, I have smiled and most times ignored them. I don’t get to choose my color, but I can choose my character. At the end of the day, it would be my hope that my character is seen before my complexion.

Secondly, I believe that race relations can be improved in America if we have this conversation in church. As a young preacher, I believe that we are all God’s children and that He does not have favorites. So having the discussion in church will make us have to think about what God thinks. As Christians that should be all that matters to us. 

I look around our church and I see mostly us, black people. But God don’t only have black children, He has white, yellow, and brown. These are our neighbors but where are they? We need to seek God’s word on this because I know that He said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

This unity would open the eyes of the community as well. The church is a place that the community looks up to, and this would help them to know that race relations are improving. It’s okay to talk to other races, fellowship and worship with them.

Finally, I believe race relations can be improved in America by our actions. We can learn about it, we can talk about it, we can preach about it, but it means nothing if we don’t put it into action. I believe we must be proactive. Make it a point to go to where other races are and become friends with them. Go places with them and invite them to places with us. If we put ourselves into action, this will help get rid of racism and ignorance. This is the dream I believe Dr. King had. And for all those who died for our civil rights, I believe it will be pleasing to them. But most of all I believe it will make God smile because we will be obeying His word when He tells us to love one another as we love ourselves.

In conclusion, I believe race relations can be improved in three ways, education, conversation in our church, and through our actions. We all have to live in this world together. If we put God first, then all this will fall into place. He made us all, and we can learn a lot from each other. Not only will this improve race relations, but it would make God very happy.”

Thanks Jalen!

John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.

Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149 Email:info@johnedmathison.org

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