The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
MARBC Executive Director
The past several weeks has brought a heightened sense of hygienic caution and etiquette as a result of several waves of serious health issues. The worldwide attention given to the Novel Influenza A (H1N1), also known as “Swine Flu,” has caused each of us to exercise greater caution. It’s thought that the H1N1 virus spreads in the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread; mainly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with the virus.
As a couple that travels regularly for ministry, Sharon and I have been well aware of this virus, regardless of what you call it. One Sunday night a few weeks ago the late TV news report shared that the first identified case of the H1N1 virus was in the town were we had ministered that day! Our particular county, Kent, has consistently led the state in known cases of the virus. We will forgive you if you want to refrain from shaking our hands.
Living in a self-conscious society has indoctrinated all of us to the need of making the right impression. Billions are spent yearly on fashion statements and accessorizing for success. The recent media frenzy regarding the H1N1 virus prompted me to recall an article published in USA Weekend, January 23-25, 2004. The article, written by Vyvyan Lynn, takes the need for a right impression to a new high. Or is it a new low? Or blow? Lynn reveals “breakthrough” research about the important topic of “sneezing.” For those of us who are obsessed with flu bugs, viruses, allergies, and sinus infections, this is must reading.
Lynn writes: “After studying the ways people sneeze, Atlanta-based behavior expert Patti Wood and Steven Lamm, clinical assistant professor of medicine at New York University, drew a conclusion – sneezers come in four main personality types. Which sneezer type are you? Grab a tissue and take the test!
- The Sensitive Sneezer: One small sneeze and it’s over. You’re polite, always turning your head away. You’re the warm, friendly type who enjoys a relaxed pace. Relationships with others are your top priority. You avoid conflict even if it means making personal sacrifices.
- The “Be Right” Sneezer: When the big achoo comes, you cover your mouth. You are careful, accurate and a deep thinker. Before speaking, you consider the right words. Detailed and precise, you catch mistakes others miss. You have great insights and opinions, if others would just listen.
- The Get-It-Done Sneezer: When possible, you hold in your sneeze. But when a sneeze finally escapes, it’s a 4.0 on the Richter scale. You are fast, efficient, uncomplicated and self-sufficient.
- The Enthusiastic Sneezer: When you sneeze, it’s in multiples and blow-the-house-down loud. You are a charismatic leader and influencer who is imaginative and intuitive. You seek and cherish relationships with others.
Which sneeze is best? “The healthiest way to sneeze,” Lamm says, “is in one of the more ‘contained’ styles, such as the turn-away sneeze.” Wood explains why: “A sneeze expels air from the nose at 100 miles per hour, sprays 100,000 bacteria and travels as far as any wind current.”
Maybe this is more information than we need! No doubt, the thought of an atmosphere full of sneeze particles will cause some who read this column to consider wearing particle masks in public. Twice during the month of May I had the opportunity to travel by airplane to ministry meetings. I observed both in airport terminals and on airplanes that some travelers went to the extreme of wearing masks to protect themselves from airborne particles. Going through airport security, most people at the very least had “ziplock” bags containing small bottles of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. After someone sneezed on one flight it appeared that the entire passenger compartment went into a synchronized convulsion in response. Being one who is susceptible to seasonal allergies, I have been met with suspicious glances if I dare to audibly sniff a time or two. This has made me extra sensitive to how my actions will cause others to react.
The main reason for this column is not to talk about sneezing or even common manners. These matters may be important during these days of heightened sensitivity to diseases and germs. But more important than this to God is your awareness of the impression and example you are making as a Christian.
What impression do people around you have about being a Christian, solely by observing you? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds his followers, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
It has been stated regarding the Christian’s testimony, “You’re the only Jesus that some will ever see.” Are people getting an accurate example of Christ based upon your personal testimony? Someone once observed: “The greatest evidence for Christianity is Christians – consecrated, dedicated, faithful servants. But the worst evidence against Christianity is also Christians – those who are carnal, self-centered, slothful, and disobedient.”
One of the reasons that Jesus has redeemed Christians is so that they might follow Him and reflect to others what Christlikeness is. He shared with His disciples, “I have given you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15). The Apostle Paul understood the importance of a godly impression when he encouraged those under his care to “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul later told his protégé, Timothy, to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Peter reminds all Christians, “To this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Let me suggest a good exercise for all Christians during these days of abundant allergy symptoms, sinus infections, and viruses of various kinds. Each time we sneeze or hear someone else sneeze, do not try to determine what type of personality is on display. Instead, use it as a prompter to remember that God is concerned about the impression you are making on others through your godly walk. Jesus encourages all His ambassadors to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” This way, you can take it to heart the next time someone says to you after your sneeze, “God bless you!”
You have His Word on it! (KEF)