So I’ve been thinking about whether non-Christians should be so impressed with Christians’ behavior that they ask us why we’re different. 1 Peter 2:12 speaks about keeping “your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation,” which is not absolutely clear. Peter could be speaking about the fact that they become Christians (“glorifying God”), or it could be simply in the same sense that “every knee will bow.”
In the interest of clarity, let’s be clear: I am not arguing that one should not do good works–we should. I am also not arguing that no one will ever ask you about why you do good things–they very well may.
Here’s what I am suggesting (“suggestion” meaning this is just an exploratory question, and not an absolute statement): that we should not do good works in order to show our Christianity. In fact, it seems that Jesus preaches against just this show of religion (Matthew 23:5)! [Admittedly, we do not have phylacteries or fringes, but what about our Christian t-shirts and our See-You-At-The-Poles? Just a question.] I know the conventional wisdom is filled with St. Francis’ aphorism about always preaching, and using words when necessary; and “they will know we are Christians by our love.” But unless we make clear that “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), we are only showing off our goodness, and not God’s. And, for that matter, what does it “preach” if we do not use words? Again, we preach only ourselves.
Since I wholeheartedly agree with Philip Melanchthon when he writes in the Apology, “Nothing can be said so carefully that it can escape misrepresentation,” let me say it capitalized and in boldface: YOU SHOULD DO GOOD WORKS. The only question I am raising is whether people will come to know Jesus Christ solely because of what you do.