A story has been making the rounds on social media recently involving a pastor who went to his new church undercover.
According to the story, he posed as a homeless person, and spent time greeting congregants and sometimes asking for money to buy food.
Few even returned his greeting, and he was certainly not welcomed.
He then revealed himself as the church’s new pastor and took the congregation to task for the way they treated this apparent stranger.
It doesn’t matter whether or not the story is true. What is important is that it could be true. We have probably all witnessed similar scenes.
What I found interesting was the comments people posted about the story.
Many agreed that the story is a good example of the difference between how people act and how they should act.
Perhaps, more to the point, it shows a difference between what people profess to believe, and the way they act.
Some people seemed surprised by the story.
I’m not sure why a story such as this would surprise anyone.
One needn’t look far to find examples of people treating other people badly, and those who attend church are by no means exempt.
The act of sticking a Jesus fish on the back of one’s car doesn’t make one a better person (the way some people who drive vehicles equipped in this way act is proof).
For that matter, visiting a church on Sunday mornings does not necessarily make one a better person.
It is the way we act, not just on Sundays, but every day of the week, that reveals our character.
Whether the subject is religion or any number of other things, there are people who talk about how compassionate they are, or how generous, or how much they do for others, but words are cheap.
Our actions reveal our true priorities.
It starts when we are young.
Do we go sit with the new kid, or do we join the other knuckleheads who are teasing him?
Do we get to know those who are not like us, or mock them because they are different?
Do we help a person who is having a problem, or do we cross the road and avoid eye contact because we don’t want to get involved?
We might think we are doing no harm simply because we do not engage in negative behavior toward another person.
Oftentimes, however, ignoring a situation or refusing to take action can be as damaging as taking negative action.
This is where that talking versus acting thing comes in.
It doesn’t do much good to pretend to be something we are not.
People see through that right away.
There are people who never talk about themselves or make a show about being religious, or smart, or compassionate.
They simply go through life quietly making things better for others.
This may include sharing a kind word or a smile with a stranger, or it may mean helping someone in need without waiting to be asked.
One judge of character is the way we act when no one else is watching.
There isn’t anything complicated about it. I think some people do a better job demonstrating character and compassion because they are constantly looking for ways to do things for others. Maybe these people have made a commitment to treat others the way they themselves would like to be treated.
This doesn’t just mean treating our friends, or people who are like us, well. It means treating everyone this way, no matter how they look, or talk, or what their background is.
It is the way we treat the least of our brothers and sisters the ones who have no influence and who can’t possibly do anything to further our careers or ambitions that reveals our true character.
It seems to me the people who live best are also the ones who talk about their accomplishments the least. I doubt that is a coincidence.
The good news is that no one has a monopoly on doing good deeds.
The people who do the most to help others are able to do so because they are actively looking for opportunities.
We don’t need any training for this, and it doesn’t need to cost anything. There isn’t even a waiting period. We can go ahead and start today.
We all experience countless opportunities to do things for others, and according to those who do this the most, helping others is the quickest way to enrich our own lives.
If we make an effort to commit a few more random acts of kindness each day, and if we do a better job of putting ourselves in other peoples’ shoes, there is no telling what we can accomplish.
And, here is the beauty of it. If we make an effort to conduct ourselves this way, we will never have to worry about being embarrassed about our actions when we meet a new pastor disguised as a homeless person; or the woman who may be our next boss; or a guy who might be our new girlfriend’s father.
If we treat everyone we meet with dignity, respect, and even compassion, we will never have to apologize for our actions.
Better still, we won’t have to wonder if every homeless person we meet is a preacher in disguise.