Sunday, September 25, 2016

Character Matters

Anyone who knows me well knows that we are a ‘band’ family. Two of our boys march in the high school band, and this is not for wimps, mind you. If you are not aware of this, there is a whole subculture devoted to competitive marching band, and when I say ‘competitive,’ I mean it. Our high school band competes at the state level and in Bands of America competitions, and they do very well at them. I say all that to set up this post to share something that got me to thinking about something more important than band this morning.

Last night our boys and over 200 of their closest friends, their marching band, had their first competition of the year. They came off that field feeling great and we parents were so proud of their performance. For the uninitiated, let me just say there is something special about the camaraderie that develops over the hours and hours of hard work these kids put into learning a very difficult show, and the high that comes from a performance well done is incredible. There’s not much else quite like it. They had a terrific night last night.

However, while talking to one of my boys today, he told me about something that happened that has led me to thinking a bit. He said that in the restroom after competition while waiting for finals results, some of the members of the band that ended up winning the entire competition saw the school he and his friends were from and basically cursed them out with language and a rude gesture. Hmmm. My son didn't think anyone from his group had said anything to provoke it, and I sure hope that's true. When my other son heard that, he said that sometime during that same time period, he and his friends had seen some other members of that band and congratulated them on a job well done and he said they completely ignored him. Not cool. Our band members have been taught not to trash talk other bands and to be encouraging and congratulatory, no matter how disappointed they may personally feel. Our band members have been taught that when they have that uniform on, they represent the entire band program and their school, and they need to act in a way that honors that. I can only hope our kids act according to how they've been taught and do better than these kids did as reported by my sons.

We talked together this afternoon during lunch after church about how they really need to be careful not to respond in kind when treated that way, and certainly NEVER initiate that sort of interaction with someone from another band, especially when in uniform. They seem to have handled it ok last night, but I acknowledged how hard that is when all you’re feeling is you’d like to punch the guy in the nose, but that their actions reflect on the whole band’s, even the whole school’s, reputation. We talked about how they (and now I, too) now feel about (that school band). Unfortunately, though intellectually we know it was just dumb kids being dumb, the actions of a few taint how we feel about the whole, right? Don’t be that for your band. They may win, but no one will like them if that becomes their reputation. You want to be the band everyone likes. Character matters a lot more than winning stuff.

All of that got me thinking deeper, though. I started thinking about, and also talked with my sons about, the fact that we who are Christians wear the ‘uniform’ of Christ at all times, no matter where we are or what we ‘feel’ like. We are His ambassadors, always. We represent Him to a lost and dying world. We who love Jesus ought to be the kindest, most gracious of people. When we speak the truth, even hard truth, it should be obvious we speak from a heart that wants the best for people. Our words, our actions all reflect on people’s understanding and perception of Him, whether we realize it or not. We need to be careful that we fight for the right things, not the wrong ones. We need to be Kingdom minded. We need to guard our words and our language and our hearts and our actions. 

Because we are in the midst a very strange (and depressing) election season right now, my mind went this way, but I see some professing Christians online get all spun up about politics and some of the most hateful, desperate-sounding, unbiblical way of thinking stuff can be said. I hear people being Americans first rather than Christians first. I love my country, don’t get me wrong, but patriotism and Americanism ought not to be equated to and elevated above the same level as being a citizen of the Kingdom of God for those who follow Christ. In lots of situations, not just politics, I hear professing Christians use language that isn’t God-honoring. This ought not to be. We bow the knee to Christ alone.  His kingdom transcends all else. We need to remember that people see how we act and they see what we think is important. We need to make sure what they see is a life that makes Jesus precious. That is our number one aim. To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We need to guard how we represent our Lord with our words and actions and primary affections, not just in politics, that was just one example, but in everything we do. We need to make sure that what we say about Him - with our words and also with our actions -  is truthful, and that we represent Him well and truthfully, biblically. Once you’ve made a negative impression and garnered a negative reputation, that’s hard to recover.

So, as important as it is for my band kids to represent their school and band well while in uniform, and it is, even more we who belong to Christ need to set as the high priority to represent Him well.  People notice. Character matters.

Colossians 3:17
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”