Be a Red Bell Pepper
Here’s the truth …
“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NLT).
So I changed my diet, again. I now balance my proteins, fats, and carbs to replace my “a bagel a day keeps the rain clouds away” mentality at breakfast! Call me Oprah, but I love bread! Pizza, also of the dough family, is my other favorite food! I remember my science teacher in ninth grade talking about how pizza could be eaten all the time because it contains all four food groups in one item alone. I took him seriously and have eaten it as often as I could over the years—thus the need for a diet now! Veggies have become my “angel carbs” each day instead. Who knew how flavorful a red bell pepper could be when surrounded by things that taste like cardboard? Alas, it will all be worth it when my pants fit without my having to suck in air in order to snap the snap.
In an effort to embrace the red bell pepper more often in my day, my mind has harkened back to the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. In that movie, red bell peppers, so to speak, meet up with plain toast people to the tune of hijinks and merriment thereafter. My husband says it's the documentary of his life, because he was the "plain dry toast" who married into my big ethnic bell-pepper family. The cookie table alone took up an entire wall of the banquet hall at our wedding because everything we do is over the top! The irony is that with all the chatter and chaos of my Italian relatives, David is the one who brings laughter, conversation, and joy with his calm, peaceful nature.
In that movie, Toula thought she needed to distance herself from her loud family in order to attract the man she liked. Little did she know that he lived in a world of plain bundt cakes and needed someone at the center of his life to add what was missing, like a colorful potted plant to eliminate the hole in the cake (you'd get that if you saw the movie). The takeaway is that we need bell peppers in our lives if we are Ezekiel Bread people—to use my particular diet that is all consuming in my life now. And the bell peppers need someone to help them tone down their spice at times as well!
I wonder if that's how we should be approaching Christianity? Too often we think that we need to be something other than we are to attract others to us, like Toula did. The more real we are, though, the more others will appreciate knowing that we don't change, even when our circumstances do. I'm frankly tired of fake.
Jesus called our attraction a light that shouldn't be hidden under a bushel. He said, “No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NLT). In the same way, people in darkness gravitate towards the light they see in us. We should not hide our light but let it shine for all to see. If we are a red bell pepper, then we need not hide who we are but celebrate it as a beautiful personality that others crave in their lives.
Jesus also called us salt. He said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13 ESV). We use salt to add what seems missing in our meal. Jesus is what's missing for the people out there who walk in darkness and without life. We need to point them to Him because He provides the flavor in the bland diet of their daily lives.
So if people come looking for salt and light, we'd better not be offering more darkness and blandness! Let’s not engage in behaviors that make them question our loyalties to God. And, conversely, let’s not be so legalistic about how to dress and worship and about which music or television show to watch that we become completely unattractive altogether.
Just like with the amount of salt we add to our dish, we don’t want to overdo any one behavior. I think I like the Frosty at Wendy’s merely because I can dip my salty fries into it for the perfect marriage of salty and sweet. Partaking in an entire Frosty without something to tone down the sweetness would be too much for my taste. Too much of a good thing can simply become bad very quickly. Similarly, getting moderate exercise is a great way to stay healthy. But if you try to run a marathon every single day, you are going to damage your body. Watching sports on television is perfectly fine until it consumes you to the point where you neglect your family. Going to work each day is certainly encouraged if you are able; being married to your job becomes an impediment to your sanity, your family, and your community.
What are ways to add salt or light in a healthy manner, like a smattering of chopped red bell pepper to a dish? Be intentional. Take time to talk to people, really talk to them. Don't avoid eye contact in the store but engage people. Give God praise—no matter who is listening—when you get an unexpected deal or a pleasant surprise. Don't walk around all sullen. Be bright and smile. Yours might be the only smile someone gets that day. In addition, keep your word. It is refreshing to see a promise fulfilled in today’s society.
So, be the red bell pepper amidst the cardboard! Even if we are dry toast in our daily lives, like my husband feels like he is in comparison to my bell-pepper family, as Christians, we emanate saltiness and light to someone who possesses neither of those! Let’s shine and be full of flavor!
… and that’s the truth as I know it!