Over the course of almost four decades in the retail industry, I have no idea how many phone calls I answered. But among all those calls, there is one that still sticks out to me. Actually it is one that still haunts me decades later.
It was a call from a stockbroker that I knew. He said that he had been reading on a topic and wanted my guidance on whether I thought “this on-line shopping thing” would ever amount to much.
My answer was that I believed people would always want to see and touch what they were buying. So, I did not think that it would ever replace in-person shopping in a major way.
To say that I was wrong in that response would be the understatement of the century. And up until this very moment, I have never admitted that gross miscalculation to anyone.
And no, it does not make me feel any better now that I have acknowledged it!
One of the more useful things that has come with the dominance of e-commerce is the proliferation of online ratings and reviews. To many of us, it has become second nature to check the ratings and reviews before we book a hotel, try out a new restaurant, or buy anything. It is common now for products and services to either thrive or die based on ratings and reviews.
So ratings and reviews are really a big deal.
Recently I came across a quote attributed to Gandhi. In researching it, I cannot verify that it indeed came from him, but it is an interesting quote nevertheless:
“I like your Christ. I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Go back and read that statement one more time and reflect on it a few moments.
Then, if you are a Christian, ask yourself if someone were making a decision about Christ and Christianity based on your life, what would their decision be. If they were researching your reviews and ratings before deciding to buy into the concept of Jesus as Lord and Savior, would they be inclined toward Jesus or be more skeptical than ever.
It’s a painful question and maybe a little unfair. But it is a reality. As Christians, our lives do represent Christ – or at least they are supposed to.
But do they really?
Jesus gave up His very life for others while we often find it difficult to even give up a little time for others. Jesus stopped, listened to, and healed those that He had never met, yet we often feel inconvenienced by any intrusion from strangers. Jesus prayed a prayer of forgiveness for those who were torturing Him to death, but we have trouble even forgiving those who have unintentionally offended us.
I firmly believe that the number one way people rate our authenticity as Christians is the way that we love and treat people. And why wouldn’t they? After all, Jesus already told us that is how people would rate and review us:
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
So if it is our love for one another that identifies us to others as belonging to Christ, that love must be witnessed. It cannot be just some nice, internal feeling. It must be a visibly evident characteristic of our daily lives. A characteristic that people notice.
The love that Jesus taught and modeled was an all-inclusive, all-encompassing, and all-consuming type of love. A love that should not have left a question in anybody’s mind as to His authenticity. To be honest, it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around such a concept.
So it helps me to break it down a little. In the finite abilities of my mind, it helps me to assign an internal rating system to assess where I stand on the “love one another” scale. And I think that it just might correspond somewhat with how the world reviews and rates our authenticity. Maybe it could be of help to you also.
RATINGS AND REVIEWS
1. Loving family
God initiated the concept of family before any other human institution. He gave us responsibilities toward our families that He did not give us anywhere else. His warning in Matthew 10:37 about not loving our families more than we love Him indicates that He expects love of our families in second place only to our love of Him. Clearly, in the hierarchy of loving others, our families rank at the top.
2. Loving friends
Jesus certainly modeled the concept of friendship while He walked the earth. He associated and did life with a group of friends, and He remained loyal to them even when they let Him down. And He made a rather powerful statement about the love of friends:
“Greater love hath no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 5:13)
While I don’t think that many of us will be called to physically lay down our life for our friends, clearly Jesus expected us to be willing to sacrifice for our friends. And it is that willingness to sacrifice for our friends that the world takes notice of.
3. Loving acquaintances
It is pretty easy to love and show love for our friends and family. It gets a little harder as the circle widens. But Jesus cuts us no slack on the requirement to love others. In fact, He calls it a commandment and indicates that it is an essential component of loving God Himself. And when He used the term “neighbors” in this commandment it was not used in today’s context of neighborhood neighbors. It was a much broader and inclusive term:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
So Jesus directly says that loving our neighbors is equally important to loving God, and that nothing is more important than these two commandments. And again, a skeptical world is watching ever so close to see if we practice what we preach.
4. Loving strangers
Many of us do exhibit a love for strangers with our volunteer work, service projects, mission trips and the like, but Jesus took the concept to an entirely different level with His illustration that we commonly call “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”.
In this illustration, Jesus indicated that we are actually supposed to go out of our way to assist strangers we come across who are in need. And it is precisely that willingness (or unwillingness) to go out of our way for a stranger who has a big impact on the reviews that the watching world give us.
There are no shortages of opportunities but all too often a shortage of willingness.
5: Loving enemies
If I could take one line out of the Bible, it would probably be where Jesus instructs us to “love our enemies”. I mean does He really expect us to do that! Is that even truly possible?
Well, He said it publicly and allowed it to be written down, so I guess He meant it:
“But I tell you, Love your enemies—” (Matthew 5:44)
That is such a radical concept that the world does not even begin to understand or expect it. But that is the very model of Jesus that we are called to replicate. That is how we can bring the light and hope of Jesus to a world so in need of that light and hope.
It is a concept that can change the world. And it is where we just might gain a five-star rating for authenticity if the world sees it evident in our lives.
So Lord, please help us to represent you well.