When he gave his name to the official, Dore hoped he’d be recognised and allowed to pass, but the guard, said that many people tried to cross the border by claiming to be someone else. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. "All right," said the official, "we'll give you a test, and if you pass it we'll allow you to go through." Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skilfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His action confirmed his
Christians have always had the problem of how to tell the world who they are. During some times in history, and still in some places in the world, uniforms have played a very important role in announcing our identity to the world. Think of the various uniforms of the various religious orders of consecrated life, which distinguish consecrated people not only from ordinary Christians but also from one another according to their orders. Remember the blue capes and white veils of the Legion of Mary, and the red badges for the Sacred Heart Sodality.
In the Independent churches of Africa members usually wear uniforms in the form of white flowing gowns, with headgear and sashes of different colours to distinguish members according to their various ranks. In the mainline churches, however, the use of uniforms or habits has become less popular. In these churches Shakespeare’s words “the hood does not make a monk" from his play Measure for Measure, have been taken more seriously.
The quest for uniforms, habits, badges, banners and pinups designed to distinguish believers from non-believers does indeed have its place in the celebration of who we are.- a bit like the medals worn on Anzac Day to distinguish those who have had military service, and those who had family members who had served and were now deceased from those who had not had military service at all.
We are symbolic beings who need to express our faith in symbolic ways. Jesus himself wrestled with the question of how to distinguish his followers from the non-believers around them. But his prescription goes much farther than external habits and uniforms. For Jesus the essential mark of distinction between Christians and non-Christians is not in the way we dress but in the way we live.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-5).
Love is the Christian identity. Love is the Christian uniform. Love is the Christian habit. If you are wearing the habit of love, you are in. If you are not wearing love as a habit, you are out.
Jesus wants the world to recognise us as Christians. We need to evangelise and witness to people around us. But effective evangelisation and witnessing has less to do with how fluently we speak and more to do with how faithfully we live. In the evangelisation of Africa, many missionary groups came early and focussed on making converts. Others came later but focussed on service to the people, providing needed medical care and essential education. These latter groups succeeded where the earlier groups failed.
Words are only a small part of our witnessing for Christ. As St Francis of Assisi told his friars, "Preach the gospel at all times and use words if necessary."
Once, the great Mahatma Gandhi was asked about his view of Christianity he said, “I have a great respect for Christianity. I often read the Sermon on the Mount and have gained much from it. I know of no one who has
done more for humanity than Jesus. In fact, there is nothing wrong with Christianity, but the trouble is with you Christians, you do not begin to live up to your own teachings.” What he said could show us what is probably
keeping two-thirds of the world away from the Good News of Christianity:
The greatest homage we can pay to the Christian faith is to live in such a way that through us people begin to have a glimpse of the unbounded and unconditional love that God has shown us in Christ.
Dear friends, Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another - as I have loved you." He showed his love in many different ways, and we must do this too. We show our Christian love through caring and sharing with the poor, the needy and those alone by themselves, and by visiting the sick and the neglected. If you’re not doing this- are you REALLY showing Christ’s love to our neighbour?
May God bless you as you think about your answer?