A friend and I decided to check out the local shopping opportunities and while on the way, we chatted about life, kids, family, jobs – you know, the usual friendly chatter. Somewhere in the conversation, my friend shared an encounter she had and summarized by saying, “I suppose a good Christian would do it differently.”

I didn’t say anything for awhile. What did it mean to be a good Christian? If there are good ones, are there bad ones? How do I know which is which? Am I a good one or a bad one?

A few days later, another friend stopped in to visit. She innocently inquired about my involvement with a specific group of people. We talked about it a little and I was left with this nagging feeling, wondering if I had given the “right” answer. Had I done the “good” Christian thing?

Once again, I pondered the good/bad question. Only this time, I felt I landed on the “bad” side of the equation. And I wondered, are there good and bad Christians? And how do I know?

You see, I don’t think by observing someone I will know the condition of his heart. I can’t help but think about a man I encountered last week. I was trying to accomplish too many things in an already packed week and ran out of sugar and salt. I jumped in the car and made a quick trip around the corner to Dollar General. Waiting in line at the checkout, an elderly man approached with a case of water in one hand and a case of beer in the other. He struggled to maintain a hold on both. I quickly offered to help him and he gladly accepted.

As I looked into the man’s eyes, my heart softened toward this elderly gentleman. I saw loneliness and a desperation for companionship. I wondered about his family and how long it had been since he knew genuine belonging. There was a soft, openness about him and I wondered if he knew Jesus. I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that he was struggling to find his way.

I am encouraged by what I read in scripture regarding how God sees me. Too often we judge one another by what we observe. We maintain a tally sheet of good vs bad behaviors, using the scores to determine who is following Jesus and who is not or perhaps more accurately, who is doing good and who is doing bad.

Read: 1 Samuel 16:7; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

I am so relieved that God doesn’t keep a tally sheet. His perspective is so different from mine. He doesn’t just look at what we do, he actually sees the motivation of our hearts. He knows those he calls his friends and he invites us to follow him in our own way. It’s likely I won’t look like anyone else.

There is something to what my friend observed on our shopping trip. As I grow in my faith, my response to others will change. I learn to ask good questions, share hope, love deeply. I see the longing in the eyes of the elderly man. I sense his need to be loved and accepted, to have someone listen to his stories. And my heart is stirred by the desperation in his eyes.

And as I grow in my faith, I no longer need to keep score or determine if you are getting it right. The desire to “give someone a break today” intensifies. I want to ease the burdens of those I encounter, not heap on more baggage.

How about you? Are you keeping tally sheets? It’s likely that if you keep them for others, you are keeping one for yourself. And there is no good ending for that kind of score keeping. Join me this week as we explore the idea of good vs bad. Just maybe we can all take one collective deep breath and let it go so we might know what it means to walk together toward Jesus as we follow his commands.

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

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