OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #302 Two Sided Tape
Out of curiosity, I recently looked up the tallest mountain peaks in the world. According to Wikipedia, every one of the tallest 100 mountains are in the Himalayas. Not surprisingly, this range also contains some of the toughest climbs. Everest, Lhotse, K2, and Annapurna are well-known names in the climbing world. To reach their tops takes training, skill, ability to learn from mistakes, and determination.
There is something in the human spirit that sees a mountain, and wonders what it would be like to stand on top. That’s why, the song says, the bear went over the mountain - “to see what he could see.” This is the drive which inspires us to take on new challenges and to do hard things.
My own devotional reading recently took me into Romans 12, a passage I call the Himalayas of the human condition. Verses 9-21 are some of the toughest character challenges we face, to overcome pride, selfishness, ambition, deceit, grudges, revenge, and lack of faith. They are the tough mountain peaks of human interaction and take no less determination.
We’re going to make camp in these verses for a little while. My hope is that we look at these verses in the same way we look at a mountain and wonder what the view is like at the top, or the same way we gaze into space and dream what it would be like to stand on the moon. Imagine the kind of families in which we live, the relationships in which we interact, and even our communities and churches if we were to do the hard work of character transformation to which Paul calls us.
So, let’s start in verse 9. “Love must be sincere.”
If we were to give the straight up, no-frills paraphrase of this verse, here’s what I think it might look like. “Love is not two-faced.” We can’t be all smiles and kindness to a person’s face, and then go around bad-mouthing them.
It says a lot about people when someone leaves the room. Will conversation go on as normal, or do we talk about the person who left? We have to be careful here. This is a real character issue, that we treat people the same whether they are in the room or not. This is not an excuse to treat someone badly in their presence, obviously, but rather a call to improve our behaviour when they are not around.
This is a matter of trust. When we’re kind to someone, people shouldn’t suspect our motives. They should be able to trust that we’re being kind for kindness’ sake, not because we want something in return, not because we’re hoping for some kind of information we can use as a weapon later. That’s not right. We hate it when it happens to us, and we shouldn’t do it to other people.
While visiting friends one time, they asked me to pass the “Baptist tape.” This was new to me, and I didn’t have a clue what they were asking.
“Yeah, the double-sided tape.” The puzzled look on my face told them I still didn’t understand the reference.
“Double-sided tape... it’s two-faced...”
That stung. I’m a Baptist. Follower of Jesus first, but still Baptist in polity. I trust they wouldn’t have used the reference if they thought it applied to me, but it seemed obvious they had been victims of the someone’s hypocrisy. Someone not unlike me. We think no one notices our duplicity. We need to think again.
Why is gossip so interesting, to listen to and to tell? We’re a little voyeuristic that way, we want to see into someone else’s life. Perhaps also, we might admit that we feel better about our own spiritual condition if we know someone who is worse. We secretly compare our lives and hope that we come out a little ahead so we can feel better about ourselves. I admit it is sometimes the case in my heart. I can’t be the only one.
“Love must be sincere.” I can’t hope that people will be sincere with me, and then be less myself. I cannot somehow be the exception in this. The kind of world I hope for, the kind of character transformation to which Paul calls us, starts with me.
I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a biweekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published June 14, 2013. Troy is the Pastor of Next Generations and Connections at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com