It was good to hear from the official agnostic poster of this humble site…Shawn from Ohio. Shawn and I don’t agree on much of anything (except for our love of the Ohio State University and the need for civil discourse) but we do agree completely on a point he made in a recent post.
Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will show their true selves.
Amen. No offense meant, Shawn.
Christian thinker and writer Brennan Manning has a quote made famous by the group DC Talk…
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and get on with their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
The search for authentic Christians reminded me of one of my favorite ancient characters, the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Born in Turkey about 400 years before Christ, he was a student of Antisthenes (444-370 BC), who was himself a pupil of Socrates. His philosophy was “marked by an ostentatious contempt for ease, wealth, and the enjoyments of life.” Diogenes would have had a field day skewering the consumerism and materialism in modern day America. One of the things that I love about Diogenes is his moniker. The irascible philosopher was known as Diogenes the Cynic. What a great name! How cool would that be to have a title like that? It certainly is better than Diogenes of Sinope. I would gladly swap Dave of Garland for Dave the Self-Deprecating as my appellation any day.
One story relates that while Diogenes was sunning himself, the powerful and feared Alexander the Great came up to him and offered to grant him any request. “Stand out of my light,” he replied. For a man who lived in a tub that was probably all he needed at that point in time.
When asked what wine he found most pleasant to drink, Diogenes replied, “That for which other people pay.” (So I actually do think like some of the great philosophers at times). But the name Diogenes is most known to the general populace as the man who would stroll through the Agora at full daylight with a torch (or, as legend sometimes has it, a lantern). When asked about it, he would answer, “I am just looking for an honest man”.
While I part company on much of Diogenes philosophy his search for an honest man resonates with me. This will likely sound harsher than intended but sometimes I feel like taking up the lantern and going out in search of one authentic Christian. Please hold the e-mails about how negative and judgmental I am. I know they are out there. But what breaks my heart is how many people are not living an authentic and transparent life as followers of Jesus. That is what those outside of the body of Christ see far too often. Is that a smokescreen by those who reject faith to avoid the question of who Jesus really is? Of course it can be. But I do not want on my ledger that I was a person that someone looked at to evaluate the Christian faith and I showed them nothing. Or at least not enough to find it compelling.
That is why I would choose Dave the Self-Deprecating as my title. I am not using the definition of self-deprecating that means to undervalue one’s abilities. That would be a false humility. I am talking about being able to see and admit my shortcomings. Simply being honest and real. I have to admit that I have grown to really dislike the smug little phrase “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” I know it is true but I have seen that used as a convenient excuse for not doing the right thing. Part of the acknowledgment of forgiveness and grace is realizing how much we need to forgive and extend grace. Every time I fail as a representative of Jesus I need to repent (change direction) and repair the damage. I am a sinner saved by grace. Because I received grace I must also dispense it if I am to follow Jesus.
The parts of Diongene’s philosophies that apply to me are summed up in these points.
- Living by personal example
- Exposing the falsehood of conventional thinking
- Exposing vice and conceit
That would be a decent road map for a follower of Jesus.
- Walk what you talk
- Share the hope that is in Jesus, not in this world
- Hold one another accountable in our walk
James was a straight shooter. Here are his words in the second chapter of James.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.”
But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” NLT
Is James saying that our salvation is obtained only by a combo platter of faith and works? Not at all. Salvation is entirely a product of grace and faith. But James is correctly saying that a living faith manifests itself in good deeds. How can it not? Like a physician, a follower of Christ should pray and strive to “do no harm”. In our case as Christians we should live our lives in a way that we do no harm to the name of Jesus.
If Diogenes were walking around Garland, Texas today with his lantern looking for one authentic Christian and ran into me…would he put his lamp down? And would his quest be accomplished if he encountered you?