I know it when I see it

One of the most famous quotes ever from the US Supreme Court is from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in 1964.  The court was deciding a case to see if a movie was protected under free speech or if it fell under pornography.  Justice Potter Stewart famously said, that while he didn’t know how to define it, he knew it when he saw it and this movie wasn’t.  Obscenity has historically not been protected under free speech in the United States, but that line has certainly been blurred in today’s world.  Some of the bumper stickers, t-shirts, and window decals in vehicles that I see certainly seem obscene to me.

I understand the problem of trying to define certain things.  There’s this push in the UMC to define “effective pastors” due to the number of “ineffective” pastors.  There’s a year-end statistical report from the UMC that I received the other day.  This is one of the criteria they use to see if I’m doing an effective job as a pastor.  The report is all numbers: new members, people who transferred out of the church, people who transferred in, baptisms, deaths (these aren’t usually my fault), etc.   I heard Bishop Lyght use the “I know it when I see it line” about effective pastors.

Whether someone is a Christian is another one of those things that’s difficult to assess.  If we used Justice Stewart’s line, what would we look for?  Galatians 5:19-25 explains it this way:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The Bible says this is the barometer.  I can’t tell if someone is a Christian, but I know love, joy, and peace when I see it.  I pray I see those things in myself more each day and I pray you grow in them as well.  And the beauty of knowing if someone is a Christian falls squarely on each of us – not that we have to know if others are, but we must know that we are.  If we are, others will see it.

This entry was posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.