How Will They Know Us?

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

I listened as a speaker explained the “60-20” principle, claiming that when we initially meet someone we have sixty seconds to create a lasting impact. The first twenty seconds focuses on appearance, the next twenty on behavior, and the final twenty on words.

I wonder what first impression we create in the minds of non-believers? How can appearance, behavior, and words create the first impression of Christ?

I fear that the broader culture too frequently equates “Christian” with political rhetoric, judgment, condemnation, and exclusion. We’re known more by what we oppose (and for being angry about it) than by what we support. Certainly there’s a place for stating your case and standing firm in your beliefs, but effectiveness is blunted when that first impression causes folks to turn away.

Skilled missionaries understand this principle. Their ultimate purpose centers on conveying Christ’s message of salvation, but much of their work involves building houses and establishing adequate systems for providing food, water, and safety. They travel to difficult, dangerous places because they recognize that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

Do others see Christ in my appearance? I can’t do much about old and bald, but do I strive to display a welcoming smile that communicates genuine pleasure when I encounter someone who may be “different?”

Do my initial behaviors draw people closer? Do they perceive open arms or reserved analysis?

Are my first words an invitation? Am I authentically interested in listening instead of preaching?

I fear that the unhappy answer to these questions, for me at least, is frequently negative. I’m too quick to scrutinize, analyze, and categorize. I’m glad Jesus doesn’t receive me as I so often receive others.

It’s not my job to save people; Jesus took care of that. It’s my job to love them. I don’t have to decide who’s worthy or who belongs; everyone belongs. I don’t need to identify the broken; we’re all broken. My first responsibility, above and before anything else, is to create a first impression for Jesus by loving everyone.

Many times our “ministries” convey the impression of the healthy helping the sick, but that’s wrong. By God’s standards we’re all sick, and the physician is Christ. He asks only that we love the other sick folks as He’s loved us.

We’re not known as Christians by crosses around necks or fish on car bumpers. We’re not known by political affiliation, by separating ourselves from the bad people, or by being better than everyone else.

How will they know us? They will know we are Christians by our love.

Question: What’s one area in which you struggle to love the unlovable?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:

Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site

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