Monday, October 20, 2014
The morning Bible Study guys got onto the topic of Christian witness: How do you effectively preach without preaching, or sounding “high and mighty” like you know it all? But I noticed a rather curious turn in the conversation: They each gave as examples of their Christian witness attempts some conversations they had with their spouses, children, bosses, or co-workers, who “just didn’t get it.” To a man, they spoke of long-running disagreements and how they wanted to do the Christian thing, but the other person couldn’t seem to understand, and that made them frustrated or even angry. To me, it seemed the ones who were speaking of their family members were especially frustrated; without saying it aloud, their tone implied: “But they should agree with me because they love me.”
“Trying to do the Christian thing can be very frustrating,” noted one of the men, and without saying it implied: because THEY don’t get it. And then as the conversation carried on a thought came to me which caused me to stop and think, and for a few minutes I stopped listening; this thought seemed more important. And so I said aloud my thought--- and all conversation stopped.
“No one loves an angry man,” I said.
The men went into a stunned silence because each recognized the vehemence of their feelings about their particular example of “Christian witness.” They thought their thinking was right on a particular matter, and they so worked to convince their other that it made them angry when they couldn’t succeed. And with my words they suddenly saw it: they wanted to do a proper and Godly thing; they wanted others to love them and agree with them, but by their anger they were inspiring people to do the opposite thing:
No one loves an angry man.
The men immediately saw the truism of that statement. It’s as if by their anger they were saying to their spouses or kids: “Don’t love me,” or saying to their bosses or co-workers: “Don’t listen to what I’m saying.” Speaking in anger is rarely a Christian witness, and it rarely inspires others to agree with us.
We spoke some, then, about acting in love, and perhaps not getting our way. Jesus did that. He wanted people to change their ways --- and talk about a “Christian witness”!!! --- but people did not change their ways, nor understand His message, but still he did not express it in anger. Jesus did not begrudge us for His having to die for us. He forgave our sins with love.
Part of our frustration over others “not getting it” is that we want them to get it RIGHT NOW. We see the truth of matters and it frustrates us that they don’t. What we often forget, however, is how WE came to see the truth of the matter. Did we study data and facts for hours or days? Have years of experience or education (or prayer) made us experts on seeing the truth of a particular matter, and its importance? And yet we get mad that when the light bulb goes on for us, it doesn’t go one for others at the same time? Others, who didn’t spend the time or have the experience that we do?
I read in the book Roses and Thorns (meditations from St. Francis de Sales) about how some trees never have fruit until in their third year; sooner or later the fruit will come. Someone looking at a tree may think something is wrong with it because it does not bear any fruit, but it just isn’t time. Often getting angry with God or our friends does not get us what we wish. Sometimes we must be content to bear fruit on a matter “sooner or later.” And anger does not make it sooner.
And in the same book I read this:
Suffering borne well will carry you closer to heaven than if you were the healthiest person in the world.
Sometimes it is the proper “Christian witness” to stifle our frustrations that others “don’t get it.” Maybe it isn’t the proper time or season.
Or maybe, in love, we’ll just have to forgive their errors, as He did.