Years ago a middle-aged woman interrupted my work-out at the health club with a theological question. She did not give her name, but she did indicate that she knew I was a pastor. This took me by surprise because I had always felt somewhat incognito at the health club. I recognized her, but we had never spoken, or for that matter made eye contact. Nevertheless, I realized that I had been observed and that I had unwittingly left an impression.
A similar experience is related by Baroness Isak Dinesen, who lived on a farm in the highlands of the Nairobi and wrote about her life in the classic entitled, Out of Africa. She told about her house boy named Kitau. After three months, he asked her one day to give him a letter of recommendation to his old friend, Check Ali Ben Salim. She did not want him to leave just when he had begun to be a valuable employee, so she offered him a raise. He said he was not leaving to get more money, but he had made up his mind to become either a Christian or a Muslim.
For this reason, he had come to work three months in the Baroness’ household to see the ways and habits of Christians. He would now work for three months in the Sheik’s home to observe the ways and the beliefs of Muslims. He would then decide.
“My heavens,” exclaimed the Baroness as she contemplated what ‘message’ he might have taken from her life and ways, “why didn’t you tell me?”
The idea of being observed with our lives on display is not a comforting thought for most of us. Americans place a high value on privacy and independence. Christ, on the other hand, placed a high value on fellowship, service, and community. We are torn between two worlds. To lay hold of one means letting go of the other. It means “walking the walk,” now that we have learned to “talk the talk.”