It never fails: pizza draws attention like few things I’ve ever seen.
Every week, when I go onto our local public high schools to meet with the on-campus Christian clubs, I bring pizza with me. It comes out of our church’s Local Impact budget, used as a way to bless the students and teachers, and to help students get to club quickly without having to stand in line for lunch. It’s a way to show our local schools that Trinity Church cares about them, and even those not part of the club–like administration, security guards, and other teachers, for example–have taken notice. And the sponsor teachers love it because they can use the leftovers as rewards for their good students.
Because let’s face it. There aren’t many teens who don’t like pizza. I can’t even count how many wide-eyed, open-mouthed stares I’ve received while carrying those Little Caesar’s boxes through the campuses. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to “hook it up.” And the reaction always starts the same: “Awww, pizza!” Hardened, tough, too-cool-for-school guys: “Awww, pizza!” Popular girls busy reapplying their makeup: “Awww, pizza!” The couple making out in the hall before class: “Awww, pizza.” Even parents, as they’re taking their sick kid home: “Awww, pizza!”
None of them is interested in me, the one carrying those Hot n’ Readies, but they sure are interested in what I have. They can’t even hide it.
I can’t help but think about my life as a Christian, and whether people’s reaction to me is the same as if I had pizza. Is my faith not only evident enough to others, but is it also attractive? By the way that I live out my commitment to Jesus Christ, do people run away from me or see something good? For people who are hungry–starving even–for Jesus’ hope and joy and peace and love and grace and forgiveness and acceptance, am I someone to be sought out or avoided?
I know, not everyone is interested in Jesus, or at least what they perceive Jesus is. The likes of Christopher Hitchens and Hemant Mehta resist and even resent that I would even suggest they need Jesus. I don’t think it’s Jesus most people avoid, though; I think it’s his followers. We try too hard sometimes. All too often we’re judgmental. And boy do we suck at practicing what we preach. But God loves us, and He has called us to rise above the caricatures that have been assigned us, many times for good reason. I have to believe that if I follow Jesus’ lead then people will be attracted, because people were attracted to Jesus, and so they will be attracted to Jesus in me. Not everyone was attracted to Jesus, but those who were hungry were ravenous for him.
Here’s what the Apostle Paul has to say about this: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” II Corinthians 2:14-17
You probably shouldn’t smell like pizza all the time, but a follower of Jesus Christ must always give off the fragrance of Jesus. We’re not selling anything, but we’re living with the confidence and sincerity of knowing that God dwells within us.