3rd March 2011

The First Duty Of A Christian

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a [cover], but on a lamp-stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men….”
Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)

What’s the first duty of a Christian? Many evangelical Christians and ministers will tell you it is to preach the word. I think we have all been on a bus or a tube train where someone has got on and, once the bus or train moves off, begins to shout their gospel message at their fellow passengers. As a Christian and a minister of the gospel, I can only say I usually feel embarrassed and upset that Christianity has yet again been given a bad name, because I join with my fellow passengers in fervently hoping that he (or she) will just get off at the next stop!

Jesus is quite specific as to what is the first duty of a Christian. You’ve just read it. What it means is that, first, the Christian is to live the Christian life. Not in secret, as so many have tried to do down the years. Not hoping to escape notice. But overtly. Deliberately. Openly. We are beacons intended to attract people. They may not like to hear the message, but they like what they see in us—which is the message in action. We live the Christian way of life visibly. We are lighthouses intended to deter people from crashing on to the rocks in life, which so many do because they have no guides set before them. And we are on show 365 and a quarter days in the year, 60 seconds in every minute. We don’t have days off or time off because of good behaviour.

But then the Christian is expected to go further.

The apostle Peter is also quite specific: “…always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and [reverence]” (1 Peter 3:15). That’s when we revert to the spoken word. It was St Francis who said, “preach the gospel, and, if you have to, use words.”

But so often we forget the first part of that verse: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts….” See, first we have to live the Christian life, genuinely, fully and with the determination that others will see it in us; then we may preach it when someone is attracted by what we do, enough to ask us why we are the way that we are. Note, not just because of what we do, but because of what we are.

Most merciful Father, we thank you for the part you have ordained that all Christians have in bringing others to the point where you can call them, if it’s your will. Help us in the quiet times to learn and inwardly fix that hope that you have given us, such that at other times we will be very ready to answer, as evangelical Christians, the questions of the non-believer. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford 

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