Swimming Against The Tide

I recall an afternoon several years ago. As with most of my long-term memories the circumstances, themes and emotions are vivid, while the details totally escape me.

The afternoon in question I was driving some friends home after church, and there was a conversation that went in a direction I thought was inappropriate, and I said so. One of my friends responded with words to the effect of “Why are you being so holier than thou?”

I wasn’t trying to give that impression, I was only speaking honestly according to the prompting of my conscience.

This vignette was brought back to my recollection yesterday while reflecting on another incident, which had just occurred.

A dear friend had invited me to attend a presentation about a business opportunity. As I watched and listened it became clear to me that I was being sold a pyramid scheme. I told my friend I couldn’t deal with this company, and that she should walk away too, explaining that the business model was unethical and possibly illegal, and if she made money out of it, it would be at the expense of people joining the scheme later.

I told her that while there was nothing wrong with making money, as long as it doesn’t involve the abuse of other people,

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Matthew 16:26a

As a God-fearing woman I thought she would find my argument completely persuasive, but in fact she couldn’t understand or accept what I was saying. She didn’t accuse me of sanctimony, but all we could do was agree to disagree.

These situations remind me that even when we think we’re on the same page, we’re not always reading it from the same viewpoint, and our differences can reveal themselves at unexpected times.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but while we have this in common, our sins are not necessarily the same. One man may be generous with his money but fall easily into lustful thoughts. Another might show kindness to strangers but speak crudely and cruelly to his friends.

And our different weaknesses affect our interactions with each other in different ways. Perhaps we find it easier to notice (and judge) those sins that we feel immune to ourselves. Or maybe our awareness of our own faults make us more sensitive to those same faults in others

But even when we refrain from judgment, and just make known our moral position in a particular situation, we can cause discomfort or offence, often unintentionally.

It’s easy to see how a person of faith, who values God’s moral law above society’s, can often swim against the tide of popular opinion. We see it in the news regularly.

But it’s also true that scripture has so many nuances and possible interpretations – through which God speaks to so many unique individuals – that we can also find ourselves swimming against the tide of accepted wisdom: of our local church, of our denomination, or even of the worldwide Christian faith. This is how churches split, and it can also be how we as individuals become separated from our closest brothers and sisters in Christ.

Confessions of a Hypocrite

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Romans 3:23

How true! There are a number of sins that I would guess every one of us is guilty of on a regular basis. Pride for example, which is probably at the root of so many others.

But one that I am particularly aware of in my own life is hypocrisy. I don’t like it. In fact I hate it, and when I see it in myself I berate myself immediately and forcefully and pray that I won’t fail that way again.

But I do. It’s too easy. There are too many opportunities. As soon as get myself right in one respect I find myself failing in another.

And the one place where I find myself failing on a daily basis is on the road.

In The Car
http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/kasko-29347

I’m sure that I am far from unique in this respect. When I’m driving I become the worst of all hypocrites. I condemn fellow road users in my mind or out loud for driving too fast or too slow, for aggressively overtaking, for tailgating, for poor lane discipline, dangerous parking, unnecessary horn-blowing, queue-jumping and any other bad driving habit you can name.

And every time I do so, I immediately remember that I have been guilty of every one of those transgressions myself. Some I have managed to put behind me, some I only succumb to every now and then, but one or two seem to be ingrained. I can train them out of myself, but sooner or later they creep back in.

I know I need to improve. I recognise that I’m worse when my mood is low. I see that I’m better when I have a passenger, or worse when I’m in a hurry. And when I drive badly I don’t hide it from myself. I acknowledge it and tell myself to try harder next time.

I want to be a better driver, and if I really put my mind to it I’m sure I could keep improving for as long as I’m fit to sit behind a steering wheel. But what I want even more is to show grace in my response to others who are just like me – who may be having a bad day, or who are unfamiliar with a particular road layout, or who just made an honest mistake, or who have any number of other reasons why they did what I myself did yesterday or will do tomorrow.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12

Self-Imposed Exile

It’s far too easy to become self-obsessed. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into recently. It’s not that I’ve withdrawn from the world, or that I’m thinking only of myself, but that I’m too much a part of everything that concerns me. My prayers are too much about getting my life in order, oh and by the way, Lord, please look after these people too.

Anyone who knows anything about salvation can tell you that it’s pointless waiting until you’re good enough for Christ to save you – the whole point is that none of us are ever good enough (mostly due to our selfishness and pride), but we receive our salvation as a free gift, by God’s grace, if we choose to accept it.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

But in a similar way I want God now to fix all my weaknesses and the issues in my life, because somehow I have this crazy idea that I can’t be any use to anyone until I’m made perfect. What nonsense! God has given me all the gifts I need, all the qualities and all the abilities. No, I can’t do everything, and I can’t help everyone. But I can do my part, and each day God is giving me opportunities to make a difference, and to do what he is calling me to do.

Maybe when I start taking those opportunities instead of worrying about my inadequacies, I’ll find some of those weaknesses and issues start to melt away.

The truth is that when you worry too much about yourself you not only exile yourself from people who love you, and people who need your love, but you cut yourself off from God. You might be praying constantly to Him but you’re not hearing His reply, or seeing it all around you.