Well I could use the Wimbledon Men’s Final as an excuse for a late Sunday Note today, but in truth I was too scared to watch it! However I am simply ECSTATIC at the result – congratulations Andy Murray!!! While I did not actually watch it though, humorously some neighbours clearly did and I was able to evaluate Andy’s progress by the cheers or groans that they were making. (Eventually they gave a cheer which was quite loud, but not that loud, and over in a matter of seconds, and I wondered whether he might have won a set – turns out he had actually won the whole match, and Championship! If I had been watching with my family I think we would have been jublilating hysterically and non-stop for about fifteen minutes!)
I think it’s fair to say that this for me compensates for the non-victory of a certain Miss Williams via her early exit from this year’s competition – but it’s also nice to see someone else win in the women’s game, and mix things up a little! (By God’s grace I hope I won’t be saying that next year though, ha ha!)
But anyway enough about tennis!
The real reason that this article is late is because I’ve been struggling for something to write about today. Actually, there has been something that has been occupying my mind, and barely leaving space for any other thoughts to grow. However it would have been yet another example of Tosin’s Rantfest Blog rather than Tosin’s Bible Blog – that is, another very, very angry post, in fact pushing beyond previous boundaries to actually identify individuals. All day I’ve been hovering back and forth: “Yes I will write it…versus…Could this be something I might eventually regret?”
As I write this now, I think I would have been perfectly entitled to write that post, if necessary God would have “backed me up”, it would have been completely honest, and I would have found ways to cut back on my anger to express the thing as graciously as possible. And I would not have regretted writing it. However I have decided in the event not to write that particular post. I believe that God is calling me to an understanding that yes, these things did happen, (in church – surprise surprise) – however I can put them behind me, and think of them simply as the price of getting to where I am today, and where God will further take me. Finally I can let it go, and leave it in God’s hands, and instead treat you all to a more positive post starting with cheery references to a British Wimbledon victory! (Did I just say British?! Sorry, I meant Scottish – apologies for that slip, Edinburgh!)
So this post that I am writing is about a very important thought that occurred to me in the midst of my furious thinking about the issue that made me angry. That is, that as Christians, everything we do is all about our hearts. The Bible says this, in several ways throughout. However, I have previously admitted on this blog in the context of humility that I myself have only really just grasped this point recently. I have explained that I used to think that I actually was a lovely person, in spite of the thoughts that I allowed myself to cultivate in my heart. So this post is written the other way around, thinking not of my own heart and the attitudes growing there, but rather how very, very easy it is to deduce the thoughts that other people are cultivating in their own hearts – even through façades of kindness and generosity.
So people will invite you to church, and yet by their actions, small gestures, facial expressions, sarcastic laughs, they will reveal what they truly think about you. For so many people in so many churches I have been to, “what they really think” amounts to an attitude that is patronising at best. This is true of many people inside these churches, perhaps most people, but not all people. Many church people are genuinely lovely, just like many people outside the church are genuinely lovely. However I don’t know whether the percentage of lovely people inside these churches I’ve been to in any way differs from the percentage of lovely people outside them – so the question is whether those churches actually make any positive difference to the character of the people inside them? Sometimes too, unfortunately, church environments can provide less encouragement to excellent behaviour than general society. So this means that even lovely people inside the church can conform to the internal church peer pressure to act in ways that are less than lovely.
And in a way you can’t blame them. Not everyone goes out of their way to expose themselves to different ideas, different arguments, different points of view. As it happens I am one those people who does go out of her way to do this. This is because I am a thinker, I am a dreamer, I like to sharpen my thinking against what other people have said. I sometimes spend hours, even whole nights, reading online articles on various controversial subjects, and I specifically go for the comments, to see what other people have said, to pick up points I could use to refine my own thoughts. Many other people however, let’s be honest, simply just absorb the views that percolate around them, often without even realising it. And these are the same views that they will allow themselves to cultivate in their heart towards you, because they don’t expose themselves to the alternative viewpoints that might challenge the assumptions that they unwittingly absorb.
However, because we are Christians, we are supposed to love one another. So this introduces the painfully cringeworthy situation where people are quite obviously thinking negative and derogatory things about you, and yet “being nice” on the surface – that is, saying nice things, making nice gestures: “That is a nice dress you are wearing today Tosin!” Or – one of my particular favourites from bygone years – “Would you like a lift home?!” Let’s be honest. This combination of negative thoughts with “nice” actions is beyond bad. This is simply dreadful. However, to make matters even worse, some church people seem to think that their “nice” gestures will outweigh the fact that they think negative things about me. This is the only reason I can imagine why they keep inviting me back to these churches with their hordes of members who allow themselves to cultivate negativity in their heart towards me!
Here is a question: as a person, would you rather “hang around with”, or spend time with, someone who genuinely likes you, smiles with genuine joy in their eyes when they see you, cares about you from the inside out, but does not necessarily talk about your clothes, negatively or positively, and is not really in a position to be offering lifts home or other gestures – or would you rather spend your time with someone who clearly thinks negative things about you, possibly despises you, but paints on a big fake smile whenever they see you? Come on people, this is not a trick question! To have to endure one person who does this in a church is bad enough, but then to have to run the (long) gauntlet of fake smiles, week in, week out… And you seriously expect me to come back to your church to “enjoy” this all over again – seriously?! The question is not why I am not coming back to your church. The question is how I managed to endure so long in the first place!
Perhaps this is what non-churchgoers mean when they talk about there being so many hypocrites in church. I am obviously not beyond blame because I have done “all of the above” myself too many times to mention! However, for some mystifying reason, these kind of things are always easier to notice in someone else’s behaviour!
So here is the point. Kindness, love, all these Christian attributes – they have to spring from our hearts otherwise they are a genuine waste of time, and they are also utterly transparent to the people we are pretending to love. And it is also easy to tell the difference between people who are making an effort (which is good) versus people who are simply being fake (bad).
This is an area in which, if you don’t fail, I am sure that I have failed enough times for both you and me! However, there is help, which comes straight from – who else?! God Himself. God can help us to be genuine in our love for other people. God can help us to be sincere in caring about other people. What we need to do is bring our hearts before Him in prayer, and before His word the Bible, read His word the Bible to see the standards He requires of us, then search out our hearts to acknowledge where we truly are or what is truly happening in our hearts. And then we simply ask Him to change us, to fill us with sincere love for the people around us, with sincere concern for things that they are experiencing in life. And He will! My goodness, God is so good! God changes us in ways that we cannot change ourselves or even hope to change ourselves. If you are not a Christian already, please do not let my angry posts put you off. Yes, there are many unexciting things to be encountered in church. Ironically this is because many Christians simply don’t understand just how amazing and powerful God is! Please hurry up and give God your entire heart – I think I’m needing your help, support and genuine love to endure some of these existing Christians!
Red heart image by George Hodan at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net