Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spies and Undercover Christians

By Lisa Karon Richardson

As far back as I can remember I’ve had a thing for spies. From the Scarlet Pimpernel to 007 they have been portrayed as dashing men of mystery. Even as I write this post an old episode of Mission Impossible is playing in the background. I know that such portrayals are highly romanticized and as far removed from reality as the fruitcake who thinks he’s Napoleon Bonaparte, but I can’t seem to help myself.

Spies even have a role in the Bible. Rotten intelligence from ten spies kept Israel out of the promised land for a generation. When they finally made it, they got as far as Jericho and sent spies in to scope out the joint. The poor fellows nearly bought it when they were identified and had to take refuge in the house of a harlot. Of course, that story is a bit like a novel in that one of the spies fell in love with the woman who saved his life. And after the battle they married and lived (apparently) happily ever after.

Enamored though I am, I think I’m tired of trying to be a spy. In the past I’ve spent a large part of my time observing the behavior of the people around me and reporting back to God.

It’s not that I denied my Christianity. People know. I just don’t talk about it much. I let it kind of stay under the table. But being an undercover Christian isn’t doing me, or the world, an iota of good.

I’m not advocating an aggressive, in-your-face brand of Christianity, but when acquaintances at work are going through a tough time, I want them to think about me, maybe even feel comfortable asking me to pray for them.

I need to take more pride in my salvation, not keep quiet when I see someone hurting. Not hesitate to offer hope, when I see someone floundering. Not freeze in the face of ridicule.

Have you been operating undercover lately?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, Lisa Karon Richardson’s early books were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now that she’s (mostly) all grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure and excitement in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a brand new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Her first novella, Impressed by Love, part of the Colonial Courtships collection, is coming in May, 2012.


  1. I love spy stories too and I think Rahab's story is one of my favourite Bible stories, as it's got it all- romance and intrigue :)

    I definitely think I have been living undercover for a while. Whilst it's easier to do that, I know it's not the best in the long run.

  2. Love spies too. And the quirkier and more unrealistic, the better it seems.

    But being an undercover Christian--sometimes it's hard to strike a balance. I've known a number of people who seem to take some kind of perverse pride in being different and blasting people with their faith. You can see that neither a love of God nor a care for others is their motivating factor. It's all about them.

    And yet, to be always ready to give an answer as to the source of our hope... Hope is a rare commodity in our world today. And when we have hope and joy amid the chaos, people are eventually going to wonder why.

  3. Laura, I'm so with you! I've only read one fictionalized account of Rahab, and have wondered why there haven't been more. It is such a fascinating story!

    Thanks for commenting today.

  4. Barb, it's amazing how often Christian life comes down to balance. That an maintain right motivations. It's got to be because it's so hard to do!

    Great points!

  5. I understand completely what you are talking about. I always thought it was easier to represent myself as walking the walk .... but talking the talk? Not always an easy thing to do. Like you, I have chosen to represent my Christianity through more subtle tones. People will hear me say I have them in my prayers and etc ... if they choose to inquire, I am all to happy to profess. And believe me, more and more people are at the inquiery stage these days.

    I very much injoyed this blog post! I tip my hat to you!

  6. I think there's a need for both undercover Christians and ... out(?) Christians, depending on the situation. If we're sensitive to the Holy Spirit, He'll let us know when, and what, and to whom we should speak up.

    Have you seen the Hallmark Movie version of The Scarlet Pimpernel? We watched it in my French class in HS and I just loved the guy who played the lead.

  7. I'm pretty open about sharing my faith in the natural course of things. My problem is, I'm just not around many non-Christians. My area is highly Christian anyway. And once people realize I'm sort of a spiritual person, some of them choose to put distance.

    I have had opportunity to start witnessing to some of my kids' friends recently.

  8. Diane, thank for stopping by and commenting. I think you're right that more people are searching and asking questions. Funny how that happens when times get tough.

  9. I think you're right, Niki. Some people are just not in the frame of mind to be receptive. I just don't want to hesitate to speak and lose out on opportunities due to fear.

  10. Dina, I'm sure people pick up on your faith pretty quickly!

  11. Undercover Christian - hey, that's good! Sounds like a great title.

    I can't say I've been operating undercover lately because I'm about the same as I've always been... I don't walk up to strangers and ask if they know where they'll go when they die. But I do say "Praise God" in public if the situation warrants.
    Many times that's opened doors.

    I've discovered some of my best efriends on secular internet forums because of 'something' in our words that reached out to the other. I wouldn't call it going undercover though. It's obeying God's prodding on when to speak up and when to stay silent because no matter how much we want to save people, if we approach them when God isn't speaking to their heart, we sometimes do more damage than good.

    Just my opinion.

    Great post, Lisa.

    Anita Mae.

  12. Good thoughts, Anita Mae. I think fellow Christians do recognize one another. There's no secret handshake (that I know of!) but I think our spirits testify to the power of Christ dwelling in the other person. We can since a kindredness.

    Or maybe it's all pass phrases and covert signals.

  13. Fun post, Lisa. Good food for thought. I'm pretty much an open book with my relationship with God. I don't whack people over the head, but like Anita said, I am myself and sometimes "praise God" etc will come out of my mouth. Hopefully I have the actions to match.

  14. Gee Liss. Thanks for calling me out!

    OH- I'm listening to the Scarlett Pimpernel at work. Nice, huh? I downloaded from Librivox and play it on the speakers. Two chapters a day.

    A lot of us remember The Man from UNCLE who is not the eccentric doctor on NCIS. There was also another spy show with another debonair Englishman. I'll have to look that one up to get the title right...

  15. Susie, that's great and very helpful for a pastor's wife. You have to be pretty transparent I think!

  16. I've never heard of Librivox, Deb. I'm going to check that out! I have heard of The Man from UNCLE. I didn't know Ducky played in it. Now I have to check out netflix and see if they have it available!

  17. I think I'm more reserved. People who know me, know who I am, and I don't have a problem talking about my faith with them.

    But people I don't know very well, who are antagonistic about Christians (lumping us all together as crazy, deluded, or hypocritical) - I have a hard time talking to them about my faith because I tend to shy away from confrontation. I'd like to get to the point where I'm okay with the confrontations and just feel free to say what I want.

    Great post, Lisa.

  18. Suzie Jo, I think it was the backing away from real dialogue due to fear of rejection or fear of confrontation when I wrote the post.

    I mean, people know I'm a Christian. And I know they are at times scrutinizing my life. But I don't always speak up when I should, and I want to be better about that.

  19. I want to be better at it, too, Lisa. Sometimes it's hard, especially if you've been rejected for your faith before. I belonged to a critique group for years, but when I started writing Christian fiction, suddenly I lost four friends. In fact one of them stood in the elevator with me at RWA San Francisco, and didn't speak to me, didn't answer when I said hi. It was one of those rare moments when the elevator wasn't full, too. Both things hurt me deeply, and things like that only reinforce our fear of rejection and speaking up when we really should.


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