Living Faithfully in the Real World

In the years of my foolish youth, I kept a poster in my study at the church I was serving. It wasn’t a very large poster. In fact, it was framed and sat on the window sill. The poster was a photograph of a big, old lion with a full mane sitting in a huge chair. Beneath the picture appeared these words—It’s my opinion, and it is very true! Honestly, as I make my way along the last third of my life, I don’t know why those words appealed to my young, foolish mind. I guess it was before I realized how foolish some of my opinions were, and how foolish I was to believe they were significant.

For a long time now, I have pondered the relationship between the people we are when we come from the real world into the church, and the people we are when we exit the church to live our lives once again in the real world. My entire life I have heard the horror stories of hypocrisy and the destructive powers of our hypocrisy. Earned or unearned, Christian folks have a reputation among some people of being hypocrites—meaning we say one thing and do another thing. For instance, in church we may say, “I love everybody,” and then, as we live between one Sunday and next, we are pretty open about expressing our biases, our prejudices, and opinions about people—even whole groups of people. We choose words that describe situations and people in a negative or distrustful light. We may not only enjoy hearing a little bit of juicy gossip, but we also savor the joy of repeating that juicy gossip. We excuse ourselves saying we are just ordinary human beings, but, for many people outside the church, there is the expectation that we should not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.

It appears to me that we have rigged the system somehow. Even as Christians who are also church-attenders, we think there is one kind of speech and behavior acceptable within the church and another kind of speech and behavior not only acceptable but expected as we live in the real world. Honestly, I don’t know how we live with this contradiction. I guess we are revealing the true meaning of hypocrisy which is derived from the Greek theatre in which actors wore masks to depict their character. It appears we have accepted that we are to wear one mask at church and another mask in the real world.

Yet, the writings of the New Testament instruct us as to how to live as faithful people not only when the church gathers but as we go about our lives in the real world. Several years ago, I offered the eulogy at the service of a man who lived and died as a quiet, kind follower of Jesus. There was true integrity in his life. His speech was simple, true, and direct. He lived simply. As I prepared for the service, the Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words to the believers in Thessalonica—“we urge you, beloved, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and be dependent on no one.” He lived his life faithful to the light he had seen.

Several years ago, I had the honor of officiating the wedding ceremony of a young couple who I love very much. It was their desire to live not only for themselves but to live with compassionate concern for others. For their wedding ceremony, they chose this scripture—

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

[Romans 12:9-21]

The couple strives to integrate these words into their lives in the real world.

We live in a time when people of faith are enduring a great test. The question before us is this, “Will we live in our world embodying the Spirit of Jesus, or will we take our cues from what is not acceptable in the real world?” Our world needs salt, light, and leaven to enrich and to transform it. Our world desperately needs Christian people who are dedicated to being salt, light and leaven inside the church and in the real world. Will we live up to the challenge or simply accept things as they are?


Jamie Broome

Jamie Broome began serving Immanuel in 1993. He previously served First Baptist Church in Midway, Kentucky for ten years. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Carson Newman University, where he met his wife, Rita, and his Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, where he also did a Th.M. and doctoral work in church history. He is a native of South Carolina, and the Broomes have two sons, Chip and Rusty.