Blowing Your Own Horn

“Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”  (Proverbs 27:2)

I recall a story about a man being tailgated by a stressed-out woman on a busy boulevard. As the traffic light turned yellow just in front of him – he did the right thing by stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light. The tailgating woman hit the horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection. While she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit the car. After he ran her license information, he returned and stated, “I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder as well as the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ and the ‘Follow Me to Sunday School’ bumper stickers. Since these things did not match the person I observed in the car, I assumed you had stolen it. Just call it a case of mistaken identity.”

These days, acting in a manner such as this can invoke road rage. It also speaks poorly of you, if in fact you do claim to be a follower of Christ. When it comes to your connection to Jesus, have you ever paused to ask if others observe you to be the person you claim to be? If we’re wise, we accept the God-given task of calling others to live justly and formulate a right relationship with Him while all along expecting the same from them. In the Old Testament, a few individuals were called to be prophets with the mandate to bring God’s Word home to his people. This was the case of Ezekiel who said, “But if the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity. They will die in their sins, but I will hold the watchman responsible for their deaths.’ (Ezekiel 33:6). As members of the new covenant, all Christians are called to the prophet’s job.  We are to be lookouts not only to hold ourselves upright but to likewise be answerable for the people around us.

During Jesus day many people were going through the motions of religion so that they would receive accolades from others. Jesus had no quarrel with the traditional forms of religious practice, but He called His followers to be truly God-centered in their performance, not oriented toward self-righteousness. He warned them, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:2). He went on to say, “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6). The landscape has not changed much over the last two-thousand years. Religious leaders of Jesus day struggled with these issues, and many people continue to wrestle with them today.

If you are old enough, you will remember following a marriage ceremony the bridal couple and their wedding party would get into their cars often draped with ribbons, cans and a sign that said, “Just Married.” Blowing their horns, they would drive around the town eventually stopping at the place of where the wedding reception would be held. Everybody knew that this behavior had nothing relevant to do with the actual marriage ritual. It was simply a public display to show someone had “tied the knot.” The marriage itself grows and develops privately through ensuing good days and bad. After years of being together, hopefully with Christ at the center, the union gives silent affirmation to the fulfillment of those once-spoken vows. It doesn’t have to be expressed with horn blowing or another public exhibition. The commitment is obvious to all who observe the relationship. Someone once said – “Make sure it is God’s trumpet you are blowing. If it’s only yours, it won’t waken the dead; it will simply disturb the neighbors.” May it be so, as we carefully witness to the world around us.

REFLECTION: Are there times your actions do not display Christian values? How does it make you feel when you hear others bragging about or announcing the amount of their financial support for a cause? In what ways can you modify your life to be more of a positive example rather than a public affirmation?

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