Knock. Knock. Knock.
Knees locked, pulse in my ears, I waited for the front door to open, my ten-year-old heart fairly bursting with passion and purpose. I—we—were making a difference, a real difference.
The deadbolt. Only seconds left to wait. Breathless and a little light-headed, I cast a glance over each shoulder to make sure my friends were in their places. Eyes big, smiles wide, they were.
“May I help…”
Voila! Our audience, no doubt stunned into silence by our beauty and poise.
“Good afternoon, neighbor,” I began, stomach in, chest out, head held high. “My name is Angela, and these are my friends. We’re here to raise money for the church!”
“F-for the ch-church?” our would-be patron stammered. “B-but you’re wearing lingerie!”
True. And necessary. How else were we supposed to perform a convincing soap opera without the benefit of stage props?
Besides, we were wearing it over our clothes.
“Yes, sir,” I nodded. “Now just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.”
My friends and I performed our little hearts out. Stretching scrawny, preteen legs and flailing spindly arms to make full use of the available porch space, we played to the back row, so to speak, delivering shocking lines that sounded grand, but meant little to us, copied, as they were, from television, not forged in the flames of experience.
Nonetheless, our words seemed to work the desired effect. Our audience of one stood mouth agape, brows deeply knit, gray head swinging side to side of its own accord, the very same response we’d gotten at the first two houses.
Now to collect.
Hitching discreetly at the pale pink teddy I wore over faded, grass-stained jeans, I took a bow and approached the front door, palm outstretched.
“For the church, sir,” I reminded the man who was, obviously, too wowed by our talent to respond properly.
“Does your daddy know you’re doing this?” he finally croaked.
“I’m going to surprise him.”
The man nodded, and his bushy eyebrows finally let go of each other. “Wait here.”
Long moments later, the man returned just as a car pulled up at the curb behind us.
My daddy’s car.
“Angela!” he called, tone clipped, but calm. “You girls get in the car.”
I leveled a dramatic, deep-frown glare at the man holding his front door. He’d ratted us out, ruined the surprise. My face flushed with indignation.
How could he?
“I appreciate what you are trying to do, Angela,” the man said in the kind of patient teacher voice I hated only because it meant I’d goofed, “but you’re doing it the wrong way.”
Then, with a gentle smile, my father’s friend pried open the fist I’d formed and filled it with loose change, $2.32, to be exact, money that landed in the church offering plate that very evening with far less pomp than originally planned.
I disliked that man for a long time, cringed when I saw him coming, acted interested in anything and everything but him when he gave me a nod or a smile, but now I understand and appreciate what he did.
Although my motives were pure—Well, mostly pure. I also liked being the center of attention!—my methodology was skewed.
In my naïveté, I’d employed worldly practices to accomplish Kingdom purposes, something that never, ever works, sending a message that was, at the very least, mixed and jeopardizing my reputation in the process.
Truth be told, my neighbor not only saved me from potential embarrassment, but, considering the compromising situation my friends and I put ourselves in, he may also have spared our families grief.
Now, I want to pay it forward.
These days, it seems I can’t open any social media feed without being accosted by well-meaning, but misguided Christians seeking to further the Kingdom through worldly means, manipulating, mocking, slandering, intimidating, accusing, and attacking their brothers and sisters in Christ.
While their motives may be pure, their methodology is skewed, and the ‘friendly fire’ they’re unleashing not only damages their credibility as ambassadors of Christ, but causes the Church, their God-given family and responsibility, much grief.
My brothers and sisters, there is a time and a place and a way to accomplish the things we feel led by God to accomplish, and it doesn’t involve our dragging one another into the public square to be gawked at or stoned by the general public.
I know that you yearn.
I know you feel deeply.
I do, too!
But I beg you, in the interest of the Gospel we proclaim, to proceed with caution.
Before you post anything to anyone, stop. Hold not only what you want to say, but how you want to say it up against God’s will and character as presented in His Word, the Bible. Take a careful, prayerful look at every aspect of your message and its presentation. Then, if and only if your message, attitude, tone, and motives align with God’s Word and ultimate purpose–His glory, not yours (Eph 1:11)—communicate your message in love, extending grace (treating others better than they deserve to be treated) and mercy (showing kind, compassionate restraint when dealing with an offender) without favoritism.
Let Truth do Its work and remember: You cannot spread light dressed in darkness.