Finish this sentence: “Smile, You’re On ………………!” You guessed it. Candid Camera was a favorite TV program where people were secretly filmed when they least expected it. I like the definition given by movie critic, Murray Chapman: “Unsuspecting people are placed in confusing, impossible, embarrassing, ridiculous, and hilarious positions, while their reactions are recorded on a hidden camera.” Creator Allen Funt used every kind of trick imaginable to gauge people’s reactions, everything from a talking mailbox to a Volkswagen that split in half while running down the road!
- God watching Christians. Proverbs 5:21 GW states: “Each person’s ways are clearly seen by the LORD, and he surveys all his actions.” I smiled wistfully when I read that verse. My mind went back many years to little five-year-old Patty Smith in my congregation who, with hands on her hips, and a serious frown on her face, would warn me, saying: “Pastor, God is looking down for you!” We who call ourselves Christians are always on camera. We can be sure that we are being watched all the time. Sources such as surveillance cameras, telephones, television, the internet, social media, and government are suspects.
- Christians watching Christians. Sometimes it causes problems. The apostle Paul in I Corinthians 8:8-13 and Romans 14:1-12 discussed a difficulty in churches at Corinth and Rome. The word around Corinth was that the best place to get good meat was not at a restaurant or butchery, but at the meat shop by the temple. Why? Because church members brought only the best animals to the temple to sacrifice to idols. This offended some who were weak in the faith, and they would not eat meat used in idol worship while more mature believers thought it was okay. Rather than settle the matter, the apostle Paul laid down some spiritual principles to the stronger members of these two churches that they could follow. They are good norms for us today.
- Christians as examples. Believers today recognize those sins that God’s Word clearly forbids, things like murder, adultery, stealing, and covetousness. Meat offered to idols may not be our concern, but what about things that are not specifically forbidden such as drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking, playing cards, dancing, attending the theater or movies? These things are not commanded or forbidden by the Bible. They are neither black nor white issues, but gray. Note three gentle warnings in Romans 14:
A. Do not reject a fellow Christian. “Give a warm welcome to any brother who wants to join you, even though his faith is weak. Do not criticize him for having different ideas from yours about what is right and wrong.” (Romans 14:1 TLB). “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7 NIV). Do not be like the proud Pharisee who compared himself to a poor publican, or the elder brother who rejected his younger prodigal brother (Luke 18:10-14; 15:11-32).
B. Do not judge a fellow Christian. “So you should stop saying that you think other people are wrong. Instead, decide to live so that your Christian brother will not have a reason to trip or fall into sin because of you” (Romans 14:13). Our judgment is not perfect enough to qualify.
C. Do not offend a fellow Christian. “It is good [to do the right thing and] not eat meat or drink wine or do anything that offends your brother and weakens him spiritually” (Romans 14:21 AMP). I read about a blind man who carried a flashlight while walking. When asked why, he said: “Because I don’t want anyone to stumble over me.” Remember what Jesus said about offending a little child (Matthew 18:5-6).
- Christians before God. “So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I would say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we are all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways are not going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture: “As I live and breathe,” God says, “every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.” So, mind your own business. You have got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God…” (Romans 14:10 MSG). God’s judgment is certain: “As I live…” His judgment is for every Christian; “Every knee…every tongue…” His judgment is truthful: “will tell the honest truth…” It will not be the person we have wronged on trial, but us, our example, our influence. We are on camera now because others are watching us and the eyes of the Lord are on us, but the record that the camera makes will be manifest when we stand before God.
Shortly after the Civil War, an African American entered a fashionable church in Richmond, Virginia one Sunday morning while communion was being served. He walked down the aisle and knelt at the altar. A rustle of shock and anger swept through the congregation. Sensing the situation, a leader in the congregation stood up, stepped forward to the altar, and knelt beside his Black brother. Captured by his spirit, the congregation followed his humble example. The gentleman who set that example was Robert E. Lee.