Being a "Good Christian"

A few years ago, Will Willimon, then Dean of the Chapel at Duke University, got a call from a very upset parent. The father was furious because his graduate-school-bound daughter had just informed him that she was going to go do mission work with a Presbyterian Church in Haiti. "Isn't that absurd!" shouted the father. "She is throwing it all away. She has earned a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering from Duke, and she's going to dig ditches in Haiti."

"Well, I doubt that she's received much training in the Engineering Department here for that kind of work, but she's probably a fast learner and will get the hang of ditch-digging in a few months," Willimon said.

"Look," said the father, "this is no laughing matter. You are completely irresponsible to have encouraged her to do this. I hold you personally responsible," he said.

As the conversation went on, Dr. Willimon pointed out that the well-meaning, but obviously unprepared, parents were the ones who had started this ball rolling. They were the ones who had taught her to pray, read Bible stories to her, took her to Sunday School, and let her go with the church youth group on ski trips. Willimon said, "You're the one who introduced her to Jesus, not me."

"But all we ever wanted her to be was a good Christian," said the father, meekly.
Friends, this story reminds me that, as Christians, our priority needs to be to follow where the Lord Jesus leads us. There is nothing wrong with being “a good Christian,” but sometimes our idea or others’ ideas of what that involves is different than the Lord’s. The Bible makes it clear that, as Christians, our focus is to be on glorifying God and serving other people. Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Many times following Jesus Christ will mean we live in a way that others understand or even admire. A Christian who, because he or she is following Jesus, is hard working, honest, reliable, and kind to others is often highly respected by the people who know that individual. However, sometimes following Jesus puts us on a path that others (even some “good Christians”) don’t understand. When a woman moves to another country to serve as a missionary, her friends and family members are often puzzled. When a man gives up a chance for a big job promotion so that he will have adequate time to devote to his church and family, there are always those who shake their heads. When someone alienates friends and family members because he is persistent in telling people about their need to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, others are quick to label him a “religious fanatic.”

Yet, ultimately what our neighbors, friends, family members and even parents think about choices we make is not what really matters. What is most important is whether these choices are consistent with God’s will. I frequently try to remind myself, that if God is pleased with what I am doing, then what other people think really doesn’t matter. And if God is not pleased with what I am doing, what other people think really doesn’t matter.
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Dan Erickson