Our denomination’s founder, Dr. A.B. Simpson, was the speaker at a summer camp in the early 1900’s. One day during lunch, a young waiter spilled hot soup on him. The young man was horrified by his clumsiness and apologized profusely, but Dr. Simpson responded with grace and humor. The waiter was profoundly affected that week. He was influenced both by Dr. Simpson’s preaching of the gospel and impressed with his kindness in response to the soup mishap.
That young waiter went on to found a church in his hometown that still exists today. Over the last century, this church has preached God’s Word, discipled converts, and sent missionaries. Millions of dollars have been raised and scores of people have been influenced for Christ. God’s Kingdom has been advanced greatly through the life of this one thriving church.
But would that church have even been started if Dr. Simpson had responded to spilled soup with anger or frustration? We will never know, but it bears consideration.
How may my actions or reactions today affect others? How may my example in the face of disappointment or inconvenience impact another?
I believe that our influence reaches further and more deeply than we realize. People are watching us to see if our faith is real, if it makes any difference in how we live. Our children, our co-workers and our neighbors want to see if we really walk the walk of the Christian life or if we’re just all talk.
What Jesus Said to The Religious Leaders
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:7-10
Jesus spoke to the religious leaders of his day more harshly than almost anyone else he encountered. Why? Because they were all talk and no substance. They held great power and influence and were teaching the law, but they were far from obeying it. It’s called hypocrisy.
Jesus called them a brood of vipers because of what He saw in their hearts. These proud leaders would never tolerate a servant spilling soup on them! Elsewhere Jesus condemned them for making up harsh rules and robbing widows. He called the religious men to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, that is, to genuinely obey God and produce the evidence of it. He warns them that if they do not, they will be rejected as God’s children.
I believe the same warning applies to us today. While we must not ever forget the grace that has saved us, we must remember that others are watching us to see if our faith is real. Our testimony and influence spreads and has a ripple effect.
My Negative Influence
Back in the bad old days when I was trapped in anger and bitterness, my actions certainly had an impact on those around me: a decidedly negative one! My family walked around on eggshells many times and those in my church family became increasingly wary of upsetting me. Eventually, friends distanced themselves and I felt more and more alone, increasing my sadness and self-pity. I was believing lies, I was trapped in sin, and I was miserable.
How were my actions making the gospel attractive to unbelievers? Answer: They weren’t. I could have been classified as a true hypocrite: one who claims to believe the gospel, but whose life is not showing evidence of it. Fortunately, God in His mercy brought me to repentance and freedom!
What Does Fruit In Keeping With Repentance Look Like?
For one thing, we believe truth. We take God at His word and believe that we can live righteously and overcome sin through His power. Those who have been forgiven much (like you and me) are humble and forgiving of others. When someone metaphorically spills soup on you, you respond in a gracious manner.
We who are His children have God’s Holy Spirit and produce His fruit. And just as a reminder from Galatians 5:22-23 of these products:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
These are all possible and expected of God’s children. May I produce the proof of repentance every day in my speech, actions and RE-actions.
Lord, help us to influence others for good!