I was struck, during my recent month-long stay in St. Paul, Minnesota, by how many people commented on my, apparently thick, southern accent. One lady even tried to imitate my accent. I found her imitation less than flattering! I do not know for sure. However, it felt like I received more comments on my accent in Minnesota than I did during my over two-year stay in Edinburgh, Scotland. Perhaps, the Scots are even more polite than I initially thought!
In Romans 12:9-21, Paul instructs the Christians in Rome to do things such as “hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good … love one another … bless those who persecute you … rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep … Live in harmony with one another … do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly … never be conceited … If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all … do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” Wow! Now that is a mouthful of practical, yet challenging, Christian teaching.
In fact, we could go as far as to say that if we are consistent in carrying out Paul’s instructions on a daily basis, we will carry with us a very thick accent. And that’s the point. As Christians, we should have a distinct accent, a very thick accent. As we live for Christ, we should look different. Or perhaps, a more accurate interpretation of the metaphor in place here is that we should sound different. In the midst of our shortcomings, we seek after an ethical consistency – loving one another, hating evil and holding on to good, praying for the most difficult people in our lives – that reflects the glory of Christ and the love of God.
As we go about the remainder of our week, let us take a few moments and reflect on our accent. Is it thick? Is it distinct? Does it stand out? Is it pronounced enough that people might make fun of us? In other words, are we living consistent enough Christian lives that those who do not know Christ might take notice – even if to speak evil of us. And, is our accent thick enough to encourage our fellow believers in their efforts to reflect to glory of Christ and the love of God.
You might be interested to know that the woman that tried to imitate my southern accent did so in church. During the greeting, she introduced herself. I, then, introduced myself. And then it happened – she made fun of my accent. I thought, “the nerve pointing out my accent in church!” Upon further reflection, however, I have concluded that the place was right on target.
Paul R. Gilliam III