Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. Colossians 4:5 GNB
Normally, I like to focus on the fact that God accepts us 100% - there is nothing any of us can do to affect this…He loves us each as much as He ever has and ever will – period! His love for us doesn’t increase as we “mature” nor does it decrease when we “fail”. But… He does desire for us to become more and more like His Son. The more Christ-like we are…the more people are attracted to the One who can set them free!
As the Church, we represent God to the world and it is His name and reputation on the line, NOT OURS. Those whom we come into contact with each and every day form an opinion as to who/what we are. That opinion may not always be accurate but we all know that first impressions matter, right?
While reading Colossians the other day I came across this interpreter’s perspective on the above verse (Albert Barnes from Albert Barnes’ Notes On The Bible):
§ People of the world judge of religion, not from the profession, but from the life of its friends.
§ they judge of religion, not from preaching, or from books, or from the conduct of its Founder and His apostles, but from what they see in the daily walk and conversation of the members of the church.
§ they understand the nature of religion so well as to know when its friends are or are not consistent with their profession.
§ they set a much higher value on honesty and integrity than they do on the doctrines and duties of religion; and if the professed friends of religion are destitute of the principles of truth and honesty, they think they have nothing of any value. They may be very devout on the Sabbath; very regular at prayer-meetings; very strict in the observance of rites and ceremonies - but all these are of little worth in the estimation of the world, unless attended with an upright life.
§ no professing Christian can possibly do good to others who does not live an upright life. If you have cheated a man out of never so small a sum, it is vain that you talk to him about the salvation of his soul; if you have failed to pay him a debt when it was due, or to finish a piece of work when you promised it, or to tell him the exact truth in conversation, it is vain for you to endeavor to induce him to be a Christian. He will feel, if he does not say - and he might very properly say - that he wants no religion which will not make a man honest.
§ no person will attempt to do much good to others whose own life is not upright. He will be sensible of the inconsistency, and will feel that he cannot do it with any sense of propriety; and the honor of religion, therefore, and the salvation of our fellow-men, demand that in all our intercourse with others, we should lead lives of the strictest integrity.
Again, God loves and accepts us not because of our perfect & upright life but because of the blood Jesus shed on the cross in our behalf. This issue isn’t about whether or not you are going to spend eternity with God but it may just have baring on someone else’s eternity – yes, we each are responsible for our own decisions and none can ultimately blame someone else for their decision to reject so great a gift as salvation through Christ alone but, I for one would hate it if someone could look at me and say that my example turned them off to God. Am I perfect? No way! Do I fail in front of Him and others? Absolutely! But I seek to live each day according to His pleasure (the best that I can) so that others would know Him…