The other day a friend sent me a good story that has been around a long time, but it’s still as relevant as it was the first time I heard it.
The light turned yellow as he was turning right. He saw pedestrians in the crosswalk, so he stopped. The woman behind him was furious, so she leaned on her horn, flipped him the finger many times, and shouted angrily from her car.
Suddenly, a policeman was tapping at her window. He ordered her to exit and raise her arms. He cuffed her and put her in his patrol car. At the station, she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. A few hours later, a guard opened the cell door and took her to the booking desk. The officer who had arrested her was waiting with her personal belongings.
He introduced himself and said, “I’m sorry for this mistake. When I was behind your car, I saw a crazy woman doing and saying awful things. I also noticed the Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Then I noticed two decals, ‘Choose Life’ and ‘Jesus Is My Christ.’ After seeing your behavior, I figured this must be a stolen car.”
I have no idea if this really happened, but every time I hear this story, I take a self-inventory. I ask myself: Could anyone tell that I am a faith-based person by my actions? What are my prejudices? Do they control me, or do I control them? Would folks know that I am a faith-based person without me telling them?
How can my actions show my faith? The first way is to treat every human being as the most important person in the world. Second, stay calm, no matter how ugly the situation. Third, stay in control, which means no raising my voice, yelling, cussing, or talking down to others. A long time ago I learned that I can get further ahead with honey than vinegar! Fourth, listen, and then listen some more. Next, remember that negative picture I have in my mind when I lost it. It’s not nice. Don’t repeat it! Sixth, keep working every day on my patience, humility, and listening skills.
As I was writing this, I immediately thought of a campfire song: “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” As a Christian, that is how I would like to be known—not by my words, but by my positive actions and attitude.
Have you ever heard of Fred Phelps? He was a Baptist pastor at the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. His claim to fame was his deep open hatred of the LGBTQUI community. Every year we’d see Fred and his fellow haters show up at the AIDS Walk in Irvine, California, with big signs stating, “God hates fags.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, he then decided to extend his message of hate to mourning families of military servicemembers who had given their lives in the line of duty. Un-Reverend Fred would show up at their funerals with the message that God was killing members of the US military to punish America for enabling homosexuality.
For me, “Rev.” Fred has used religion as an excuse to promote his intense hatred of the LGBTQUI community. Whenever I see such hatred, I have to ask myself, “Where is Fred coming from? Why would he dedicate his whole life to hating gays rather than loving humanity? Did his seminary teach him that? Did he read that hatred in his Bible?”
Let me end by asking you: Which do you think speaks louder, our words or our actions?