Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Proof Is in the Pudding

Don Quixote is evidently the origin of the adage: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” That is, the true quality of something can only be determined by using it. The meticulously prepared dessert dish may look delectable, but one only knows for sure by tasting it.

Similarly, Jesus declared that people would recognize true Christianity only as they observed His followers practicing it in their daily lives: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Sermons of flawless logic, impeccable organizational structure, highly charged worship services, and a large budget are not cited as evidences of genuine Christianity in action. Instead, Jesus points to the practical outworking of loving relationships.

This dimension is the means by which Christianity must be proclaimed to a skeptical world. And, indeed, praise is coming from some unexpected quarters.

Matthew Parris writes for the U.K. Times Online, being twice honored as “Columnist of the Year.” He is also an outspoken atheist. Yet he has high praise for Christianity’s impact in Africa. “[A] confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects, and international aid efforts.”

Parris used to wish that faith could simply be divorced from all the good things that Christians do and build. But he now appreciates how the Christian faith has transformed the hearts of people from the Africa he knew as a boy. “[S]omething changed in the faces of the people … something in their eyes … the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away.”

Parris has not (yet) embraced Christianity himself, but he has taken a giant step in the right direction by observing the genuine fruits of conversion. The characteristics of honesty, diligence, and optimism he attributes to “a conception of man’s place in the universe that Christianity had taught.”