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TONY ELDER: Christian mannerisms should reflect honest devotion to God

Recently, I was sitting in a park observing Alice and the White Rabbit. No, I wasn't dreaming. Neither had I ventured through a looking-glass. My family and I had made the trek to Orlando, Fla., where we were visiting Disney World on that particular day.

I had found a place to sit to rest my weary feet for a few minutes while my grandchildren stood in line to meet the aforementioned storybook characters.

I watched as the young lady dressed up as Alice interacted with the various children who excitedly greeted her. I thought she did a wonderful job portraying the animated Disney character which she represented. Both her verbal expressions and her mannerisms, including her hand motions as she expressed surprise or glee, expertly mimicked Alice in Wonderland.

Her professionalism showed as the actress had her picture taken over and over with each new guest or group. Regardless of the differing circumstances, she was able to strike the same pose, duplicate a slight tilting of her head and generate the same bright smile each time. As we encountered other such characters in the park that day, many of them were equally talented in portraying their various roles.

I'm afraid that some of us can become rather adept at imitation and role-playing too. We know what a Christian should look like and act like, so we tend to play the part. We even know the right words to say to make ourselves appear spiritual in a given situation. "Praise the Lord!" "I'll be praying for you." "All things work together for good." "God bless you."

Similarly, we can duplicate the mannerisms of devotion -- a bowed head, carrying a Bible, a gaze upward with a finger pointing toward the heavens, or countless other outward expressions which often are manifested by people of faith.

Certainly such actions can be genuine demonstrations of a person's relationship with God. But those same gestures can just as easily be portrayed by pretenders who are merely playing a role.

We need to be sure that we possess the reality of Christianity and aren't simply being actors who knowingly, or maybe even without realizing it, are living out a fantasy.

We shouldn't just be acting like followers of Christ; our behavior should be a reflection of who we truly are. It should be the fruit growing out of a heart that knows Christ as Savior. Those outward godly mannerisms should reflect the inward holiness that we possess due to the Spirit of God residing within.

Recently one of the workers who was helping remodel our kitchen commented a couple of times about how I was always smiling. I appreciated her observation, along with the knowledge that I appeared to be a happy, pleasant person. But it also made me wonder how much of my smiling was simply a reflex action that I've come to wear on my face or how much of it is truly a reflection of the peace and joy that I have in my heart through Christ.

I don't want to be like Alice, with a fake perpetual smile on my face. I want it to be a genuine expression of who I truly am. And I hope that it is.

On the one hand, as believers we need to always seek to do the right thing and have a godly spirit no matter what our circumstances or whether we feel like it or not. But on the other hand, let's be careful that we don't fall into the trap of simply playing the role of a Christian.

Let's not be a make-believe character out of Christian-world. Let's be the real thing -- a true, devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.