A few weeks ago, my mum and I were having coffee with a work colleague of mine, who has become one of my closest friends here in Canberra. We were discussing Gabriel’s name. My work colleagues heard all about the saga of naming our son. Warwick and I have such different taste in names, and we just couldn’t find a name we both loved. In the end, Gabriel was without a definite name for his first two days. I’ll blog another day about how Gabe was named, but that’s a story for another day.
So, back to the conversation in the coffee shop; My mum made the comment “I love the name Gabriel.” My friend screwed up her face and said “I don’t like it. It’s so religious.”
Now, whilst this friend of mine is always fairly honest with her opinions, I was a tad taken aback. Afterall, it’s an unwritten rule that when you meet a new baby, their name is lovely (even if you think it’s hideous) and the baby is beautiful (even if they look like a mishapen blob).
So, not sure how to respond, I just said “Well, we are religious…”
My friend seemed shocked. “Are you?”
I explained that the majority of Warwick’s favoured names were biblical and the conversation moved on from her dislike of my babies names to discussing some of the other names Warwick had suggested for our son. At least we could all agree that Lazarus was an absolutely terrible name to call a newborn!
Since that day, I’ve thought about the conversation often. What has stuck with me is that my work colleague and a very valued friend of mine had no idea that we were Christians. It really makes me question how I am living, to be quite honest.
I’ve always been of the belief that your faith should be apparent to those around you by the way you live.
Besides this, there’s certainly a few clues about my Christian faith that I thought would be obvious. Afterall, I have four biblical tattoos, three of which are on my arms and visable whilst wearing my work uniform! Admittedly, I do keep hidden the ghastly bible verse tramp stamp on my lower back, not just because it’s poorly done and looks awful, but also because I now weigh 30 kilos more than I did when I made that silly teenage choice. I don’t often wear clothing that exhibits my hips and bare back. But come on, I have a Psalm on one wrist and a bible verse about love on my other one…
Oh, and what about the fact I made myself unavailable to work on Friday nights last year because we ran a church youth group? How had my colleague missed that when I went from working an evening shift with her to working a morning shift instead?
The reality is, these things are trivial. It’s too easy to hide behind excuses like these, and shy away from reflecting on the real problem. And that problem is that someone close to me couldn’t tell I was Christian.
What makes someone an obvious Christian anyway?
I think of the values that I believe a Christian should possess; kindness, acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, willingness to serve others…
Am I kind? Am I accepting? Am I generous? Am I forgiving? Do I serve others? I know I do some of these things well, and I know I fail in many ways too.
Plus, lets me honest, I swear much more than I should. I’m absolutely not a morning person, so I don’t make it to church anywhere near as much as I should. I can be very critical. I don’t read my bible. In many ways, I’m a terrible Christian (aren’t we all?)
How should a Christian behave? If you look up “Christian values” on wikipedia, it lists the biblical teachings of Jesus as defining values:
- Love of God and Neighbors: “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (an excerpt from the Shema Deut.6:5), -Matthew 22:37 This is the first half of the statement, and the second half, given equal weight, is “love your neighbor as yourself” upon which hang all the Law and all the prophets. -Matthew 22:36-40
- Fidelity in marriage: “Whom God has joined together let no man put asunder”, derived from -Matthew 19:6
- Renunciation of worldly goods: “Gather not your riches up upon this earth, for there your heart will be also”, (Matthew 6:21)
- Renunciation of vengeance: “If a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other cheek”, (Luke 6:29)
- Forgiveness of sins: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”, (Matthew 6:12)
- Unconditional love: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Luke 6:27-28)
There’s alot to think about and unpack there. I haven’t finished unpacking it all. Although I expect I’ll be unpacking this very question for a long time.
But if there’s one thing I’m sure of, its that sometimes wake up calls come in unexpected ways. I’m grateful for this wake up call.
Oh and by the way, I for one, just adore Gabriel’s name! Here’s another cute squishy photo of him on the very day he was named.