Recently, I had the distinct pleasure to perform my very first wedding for two students from within our ministry. After all the excitement was over with, I got in the car for the 3 hour drive home. My wife, Carla, had recently hurt herself, so she wasn't along with me and neither was my son, Tim. So with some time to myself, my mind began to wander.
I thought back to the ceremony and the prayer I had spoken over the two of them- that their marriage would be filled with love and service to the world around them. Having known the two students for several years, I am confident that this will be the case. They will be overt in their Christianity within whatever community the Lord will lead them to. They have no qualms serving other people and sharing their faith in Christ and speaking scripture into the lives of the people around them as they do so (in appropriate ways). Which got me onto my original train of thought: the difference between Overt and Covert Christianity is something you can "C".
Many times, we pastors have a struggle on our hands getting people to move from a more covert to overt faith. As I drove down the highway, I thought of several people that I wish would make a change in their faith from always being in the closet in secrecy to having their light shine like a city on a hill. I was reminded of the tension that exists with these two extremes that Christians can, and do, run to at times. In the book of Matthew 5:13-16, Christ outlines the fact that Christians should be salt and light- seasoning life and bringing the hope of Christ to the world. Your actions should be pointing people to God, and not to how good you are. If they praise you instead, they may not understand the working of the Holy Spirit in your life ("But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." - 1 Corinthians 2:14), or maybe you simply weren't apparent enough- in which case, you should probably ask for forgiveness at some point. Either way, you should take the opportunity to redirect them to Christ.
We can find the other side of this coin in Matthew 6:1-6. Christ details His complaint with people who make a big deal of themselves in various ways so that the people around them will take notice. He directs them to get their private and secret lives with the Lord in order. This covert relationship with the Father is something that we pastors are always trying to get people to engage in more as well. It is my opinion that we Christians, tend to use this as an excuse as well. We retreat to an extreme form of this discipline, often never intersecting others with the gospel (in word or deed). Rather, we choose to keep matters of faith a private affair. Keep in mind, these words from Christ, are in the same sermon less than three minutes apart from the call to be like a city on a hill which cannot be hidden! These verses in chapter 6 have more to do with the attitude of the heart, "Beware praciticing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them..."
We, as faithful Christians, must operate within this tension. Actually, we should not see this as a tension- not as an either/or situation. Rather, we should recognize this as a both/and scenario, each overlapping the other. We must be striking out to serve the world around us with an abundance of Christ's love from a place of humility which comes from understanding the grace that has been extended to us by spending secret time with the One who lives in our hearts.
The difference between Overt and Covert Christianity is being able to "C" our time spent in secret being poured into the lives and relationships around us.
Serving through love and laughter is a great way to live.