For the past ten years or so, I’ve made a habit of “lecturing” junior agents on the van ride to every outing—whether we’re headed to dinner at a nice restaurant (rare!) or to the grocery store. “Be good!” “Remember people are watching!” and the even less popular among psychologists, “Do NOT bring shame to our family through your actions today.”
Several years ago, it hit me that my agents might be tempted to think I was asking for or encouraging a fake form of good that was only important in public. Of course, I also encouraged good behavior at home, but I felt something in my wording was off. And maybe I was simply being convicted that it wasn’t my reputation that mattered. The Valente name was mud. HIS name, however, was worthy of honor. I needed to get that across. So, I began to change my wording: “Do not bring shame to HIS name through your actions today.”
A few weeks ago, we had someone in our home who does not profess to be a believer in Messiah. My preteens were squabbling with each other, and I was instantly tempted to feel shamed for my sake. This shame elicited frustration. After all, I’m the senior agent who has spent the most time training the agents who live in our home. Their bad behavior reflects on me. As usual, though, a simple sit down and training time convicted me as much as it convicted my agents.
“Why are you acting this way? You’re embarrassing ME.” (Conviction. Ouch.)
My head dropped in shame, and after a quick prayer, I continued:
When we sin—alone in our own home—we sin against God and each other. Neither is right or acceptable. However, we can sincerely apologize to each other and to God, and we can be sincerely forgiven. We love and trust each other, and we understand that humans are, well, human. When we sin in front of passersby, however, we are potentially doing great harm. It’s not likely that we’ll ever be able to explain ourselves or to apologize. And even if we see them again, they won’t see us at our best later and assume that’s the better picture of our character. If anything, they’ll most likely see our good behavior as hypocritical. Because of their own weakness or distrust for God and His people, they’ll often decide that our moment of weakness defines us. Public behavior is so important because it impacts the way others see our God. When we yell ugly things at our sister, we can go to our sister and repent. We can spend days, weeks, and years saying the true things that she needs to hear. When we yell ugly things at our sister in front of a non-believing or doubting stranger, we may never have the opportunity to right that wrong.
Let’s not sneak out into the world hoping they don’t know we’re His (and therefore our bad behavior doesn’t shame Him). Let’s make it our goal to be a light!
The next time you leave your home to interact with the world, think about the ways you can reflect His character.
• Be helpful
• Obey your parents
• Speak kindness
• Leave a big tip
• Clean up after yourself
• Allow someone in front of you in line
• Hold the door for someone outside your own group
• Drive carefully and courteously
• Be patient with others mistakes
• Pay for someone’s meal or groceries
• Pray with a stranger
• See a need and fill it
Mission Directive: Matthew 5:13-15 (NIV)
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Beware of: selfishness, apathy, hurriedness, anger, and greed
Use: kindness, patience, joy, gentleness, goodness, and love