I have recently realized just how easily I take a person’s kindnesses towards me at face value.
This is something of a new revelation, and not one I am particularly proud of but it does provide some insight as to how I could once have tolerated, excused or even missed the abusive behavior of persons I believed to be friends.
Here is how it works for me:
When a person, particularly one who professes to be ‘Christian’ says kind things to me, I easily assume he/she treats everyone kindly. I do not like to suspect, nor does it usually ever occur to me that one who is kind to me could have any other motive than that he/she really does like me and sincerely wants to be my friend.
I tend to see what I want to see, but I now realize from experience, what I want to see is not always what is. Sadly, I have discovered that the human-nature tendency to use a person for a measure of personal gain thrives in the church body as well as is in the corporate ‘World’.
I am not quite sure if that makes me jaded or enlightened..
But I do know this a direct contradiction of what those of us who have grown up in the church have been taught which, I believe, is a major source of disillusionment to the young people who suddenly discover that it simply is not true in reality.
To believe and teach that a person who is self-serving, manipulative, rude, demanding, sour, negative, critical, bossy and even a heartless abuser will suddenly be ‘delivered‘ from those ugly dispositions once they make a profession of faith and begins faithfully attending all the church functions is simply not congruent with the reality.
Perhaps this is how ‘two fold children of hell’ are born?
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.” Matthew 23:13
The above chapter in its entirety most certainly applies today....
Some of the meanest people I know are appallingly the most prominent, respected and revered of all professing believers!
So, how do we reconcile this fact with the “new creation” teachings of the Bible?
One might argue in such cases, there was never real regeneration--those people were never really 'saved'. Perhaps their conversion was motivated by things other than recognition of their need of redemption and earnest desire to be like Christ.
I don’t believe it is our place to question any person’s conversion testimony simply based on their disposition or even other bad behaviors and attitudes--a pastime enjoyed by the ‘church lady‘ types I have known.
I believe it more likely to be, we are obligated to ‘work out our own salvation‘ (Phillipians 2) when it comes to the day-to-day behaviors and attitudes.
We actually make a choice to either be kind or ill-tempered.
While such a character may truly be born again, he/she may not actually ‘walk in the Spirit’, which is a decision--a choice one makes rather than any miraculous consequence of conversion. It requires recognition and acknowledgment of the tendency, abhorrence of it, then day to day struggle to overcome it. All this for the love of another (a genuine fruit of the Spirit) which now compels him/her.
Thankfully, I found a way to cling to my faith in spite of the ‘whited-sepulcher‘ Christian I may have been at times. I regret the lost relationships with those who continue to be as such, but I empathize with those who could not--whatever their reasons.
Whether we admit it or not, I would venture to say that most of those who are so hostile towards believers and even God Himself, are so because of some hurt they have endured at the hand of ‘whited-sepulcher Christians’.
Wouldn’t it be the truer expression of the Gospel of Peace to acknowledge their hurt and anger, allow them to express that hurt by really listening to what they have to say no matter what pours out of their mouths, rather than treating them as enemies?
After all, If God permitted men like Abraham, Moses, David, Job, Elijah, John the Baptist and others to question Him, complain to Him, even rail at Him the abundance of their hearts, would He do any less for those who are troubled at Him today? Perhaps He would will for us to extend love, grace, interest and understanding towards His critics rather than condemnation and indifference since only He truly knows what their burdens are.
Could this have been what Jesus was modeling when he asked The Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do” while hanging on the cross those very ones constructed for him?
A true, Spirit-led follower of Christ will ‘work’ to make his expressions of kindness sure and genuine.
And now that I am finished with this post, I realize that it is not what I originally intended to write. But, Oh well....