Living out the gospel by word and example

Published on: 1 May 2018

Archdeacon Steven explores how our faith influences the way we look at ourselves and how others view us.

When I have my hair cut, quantities of grey and white hair seem to collect around the chair, which causes me to wonder to whom it belongs. Surely it can’t be me? Although on the outside I’m an overweight greying middle-aged man (as my children regularly remind me), inside it feels rather different.

I doubt that I am alone in feeling that way, for how we are perceived doesn’t always match the self-image we have created for ourselves. Sometimes that can be destructive, at other times frustrating or intriguing, but self-knowledge is a useful skill to have in our dealings with others as it fosters relationships and avoids misunderstandings.

In many places, the concept of ‘peer review’ has arisen both institutionally and also for individuals. It is a way of gaining a critique of words and actions from those in a similar position and yet it is often challenging. That, I suspect, is because it can confront the view we have of ourselves and yet if we are prepared to be open to being gently challenged, then we have the opportunity to discover more about ourselves, our strengths and our limitations. That will benefit those close to us, our families, friends and colleagues, but it can be painful when we make ourselves vulnerable to the words and views of others.

It is not a surprise that God knows us far better than we know ourselves. Indeed, in both Old and New Testaments, we can read of God knowing ‘our inward parts’, or of our Father knowing what we need before we even realise ourselves.

There is no hiding from God (as Jonah found) which is why day by day, week by week, we both confess our sins and also bring our cares and concerns in prayer. It is why we pray ‘Our Father,’ for there is no pretence in prayer, no hiding from the reality of ourselves and our world, and no pretending that we are any different from what we really are.

No matter how we view ourselves, how do others view us as Christians?

What message do our opinions, our words, our actions and our lives convey about the God who loves us and whose Son died and rose for us?

A crucial part of our task of mission, indeed our vocation as Christians, is not only to share the Good News but also to live it by word and example. Hypocrisy is rightly viewed harshly by our society and so a disconnect between what we say and what we do, between how we view ourselves and how others see our lives, cannot only hinder but harm our God-given task of making disciples.

It seems to me that honesty and transparency are much more helpful tools for mission than image and projection. For as is often said, actions speak louder than words.

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Articles in this issue...

Identity (un)known

How well do you know yourself? In the midst of experiencing a heart-breaking life situation a year ago, James Shelton realised his answer to this question was ‘not well enough’.


Talk Calling

Anna Walker unpacks a new resource from CPAS aimed at helping 14 to 18-year-olds explore the God possibilities for their lives.


Five journeys, one destination

Bishop Alan confirmed five adults, ranging in age from late twenties to early seventies, in All Saints, Chedgrave earlier this year. Two of them were also baptised. Five people, five different journeys. The Revd Alison Ball describes the journeys that they local church family have walked with them for several years.


The homecoming: a life-long journey of faith

The Venerable David Hayden describes his journey back to his roots in Oulton Broad and the faith that has formed the path.


Who do you think you are?

Sixty per cent of girls opt out of everyday activities because of how they think they look. Around half of adolescent boys are unhappy with their bodies, and young people's happiness is a its lowest since 2010[1]. Jonathan Richardson explores what shapes our sense of identity.


Vocation and identity in Christ

Jennie Cummings-Knight examines the different calls on our life that can shape our identity.


Cursillo – Christian living

Biddy Collyer listens to the experience of people whose lives have been transformed through Cursillo; a useful way of exploring one's identity in Christ.


Why look anywhere else?

Will Warren takes a look at what the apostle Paul says about our identity in Christ in the book of Ephesians.


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