The school where I was guidance counselor celebrated Red Ribbon Week each year. I always tried to make the emphasis fun, informative, and challenging. We’d ask students and staff to take a pledge to be drug-free. They’d sign a banner or a poster, then receive a red ribbon they would wear to show evidence of their pledge.
Student leaders were in charge of sitting at tables in the hallway and asking kids to sign the pledge and receive their ribbons. I’d often have them perform skits or share information during our morning announcements about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. We’d have contests, and try to make it cool to be drug-free.
Years later, I got a call from a young woman who had been one of my student leaders while she was in Middle School. She had recently asked Jesus into her life, and felt the need to confess some past sins to people she felt she had hurt. She told me that she had started using drugs in Middle School, that while she had been one of the more vocal advocates of a drug-free lifestyle, she had been using. She’d signed the pledge every year. She just didn’t keep her pledge and wanted to apologize for lying to me.
I read the list of names of the men who signed a pledge to obey God (Nehemiah 10) and wondered how many of them were able to keep their promises once the ink dried on the paper. Did they sign it like my young friend, not intending to keep their word, but because it seemed like the acceptable thing to do? Or did they sign it with good intentions, only later discovering they couldn’t hold to it? We know the Jewish nation failed in their attempt to obey God. Did any of those men succeed?
Sometimes I think we Christians are guilty of trying to get people to say the right words, raise a hand or kneel at an altar, or promising to change, then we walk away and assume we’ve done our part. But salvation isn’t a name on a ledger. Salvation isn’t even a promise to quit sinning. It isn’t church attendance, or praying for a meal at the restaurant.
The New Testament tells us we can recognize Believers by their fruit, their love for one another. The test isn’t church membership. It’s a life that look’s like Jesus’ life. It’s a person who thinks more highly of others than himself. It’s a heart that belongs to the Savior because that person has asked Jesus to forgive them.
I wish I had paid more attention to that young Middle School girl. Maybe I could have recognized the signs of drug abuse in her. I think because she said what I wanted to hear, I figured she was ok. She wasn’t.
Do you know a person who is young in their faith? Get to know them better. Nurture them. Hold them accountable out of love. Don’t assume because they went forward last Sunday that they will be ok. Those of us who have walked with God for a while now know that accepting Jesus is the first of many steps in this Christian life.
Walk with someone today who is learning to use their faith-legs. Your interest might be exactly what they need to help them keep the promises they’ve made to the Lord.