Three weeks ago, I wrote about an opportunity - literally - to stand up for God. It was, for most Christians attending the event, a missed opportunity. (Read this post: A Grand Opportunity.)
Every day we have not-so-grand opportunities to stand up for what we believe. Sometimes we wonder if the ways we honor God in the small things make any difference. Today I want to share a true story told to me by one of my dear friends.
Ms. Verla was married for 43 years. For 37 of those years she prayed for her unsaved husband. He was a difficult man to love and for whom to pray. He was mean and verbally abusive. He attempted to sabotage her every attempt to live a Christian life in their home.
He did have one upbeat habit, however, he liked to tell jokes. Unfortunately, the jokes he enjoyed telling were rude, vulgar, and obscene. To Ms. Verla, they were another cross to bear.
By the grace of God, Ms. Verla's husband got saved. To her delight, he begin attending church with her. One Sunday, a few weeks after her husband's salvation, they were a little later than usual leaving the auditorium. Since most people had already left the building, they had a few extra minutes to talk to the preacher who was waiting at the door. As Ms. Verla and her husband stopped to shake hands with him, Ms. Verla's husband decided to tell the preacher a joke. Ms. Verla was extremely embarrassed because the joke he told was vulgar and totally inappropriate.
The preacher listened to the joke, but he neither smiled nor laughed when Ms. Verla's husband finished telling it.
Her husband said, "What's the matter, Preacher, don't you think it's funny?"
To which the preacher replied, "I cannot listen to, participate in or laugh at that kind of joke."
"Why, because you're a preacher?"
"No, because I'm a Christian."
And so they left.
The next Sunday, Ms. Verla's husband decided to try again.
"So, Preacher, have you heard the joke about..."
The preacher held up his hand to stop him.
"Wait. Is this another joke like the one you told me last week?"
"Then I cannot listen to, participate in, or laugh at that kind of joke."
"Why? Because you're a preacher?"
"No, because I'm a Christian."
This time they left with the joke untold.
The next Sunday, Ms. Verla's husband could hardly wait for the sermon to end. As soon as he got to the preacher he said, "Preacher, I've got a joke for you."
"Is this a joke..."
"No, Preacher, it's not."
So Ms. Verla's husband told a joke he had memorized from The Reader's Digest. The preacher enjoyed it and they both laughed together.
According to Ms. Verla, her husband never told another vulgar joke to the preacher or to anyone else. That was one of the first indications she saw that God was changing his heart.
Do we take a stand the way the preacher did? How many of us refuse to listen to vulgar jokes or gossip or criticism of others? The small choices that we make are important. We can choose to take a stand for what is right in God's sight, telling others why we do it without being disrespectful or judgmental. It takes practice, but the rewards are worthwhile. We can turn an uncomfortable situation into a grand opportunity to bring light into darkness.