Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"I'm just being honest!"

*Note: If you don't have time to read all of this, skip to the Elisabeth Elliot quotation and following.

We live in a world, even a Christian subculture, that values 'honesty', 'genuineness', 'authenticity' and 'transparency'. I value all of those things a great deal. Yet I find that I value 'authenticity' more than I value refraining from gossip; 'genuine expression' more than not sinning in my anger (or my angry words); and I disregard building up the Body of Christ in favour of 'transparent' feelings about fellow Christians.

I am not alone in this strangely 'weighted' values system. Many other Christians are the same. We want to express our feelings, our emotions - even if in our anger we say untruths about someone. We desire to rationalise that we aren't really gossiping, we are just explaining the events (and persons involved) that hurt our feelings, frustrated us, etc.

Yesterday I was twice presented with the idea that honesty is not always the best policy.

I was listening to pastor Tim Keller talk about Removing Idols of the Heart, where he related the story of the forgiven prostitute who was kissing Jesus' feet at the house of Simon (the former leper). At one point in his illustration, Dr. Keller says that Simon wasn't more moral because he had been forgiven less than this woman (implying that he has sinned less). However, Keller's next statement caught my ear. He said that neither was the prostitute somehow more moral (according to our changed standards - as if we had the authority to do so) by being honest while Simon was a hypocrite.

In the afternoon I was reading Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot where I came across a story that proved Mrs. Elliot-Gren does actually sin sometimes. She was speaking of her annoyance at a young woman, and at her husband's correction for letting her annoyance show. Her response was a running commentary of self-defence in her head. It was certainly 'honest' and 'genuine'.

Elisabeth Elliot went on to say,
" 'Reality' is often evil. There is a common belief that a frank expression of what one naturally feels and thinks is always good because it is 'honest'. This is not true. If the feelings and thoughts are wrong in themselves, how can expressing them verbally [or via e-mail, facebook, etc.] add up to something good? It seems to me they add up to three sins: wrong feeling, wrong thought, wrong action."
(page 66, Revell/Baker, ©1982 - emphasis mine)

So let us be honest: let us call slander by its name. Let us stomp on our own tongues to extinguish the fires of gossip. Let us cease from anger and forsake wrath that gives place to sin... Even if we were simply 'expressing ourselves'. Some forms of 'self-expression' are sin. I know, because I sin often. In the months since I have been back from Oxford, my patient mother has had many frustrated calls from me where I have 'vented' about a particular issue. However, in my 'authenticity', I confess that I sinned in just about every previously mentioned area – maybe all of them.

We must give place to emotions, but the place for our emotions (which includes things like rage, bitterness, resentment, even frustration) is found in the piercing eyes of the Man of Sorrows. When we look into the very eyes of Jesus, all of our hurts, unrighteous anger, jealousies, lusts, etc. die. Not because we haven't experienced real pain, frustration, desires, and so on, but because Jesus, too, has dealt with derision and scorn. He, too, has served annoying people. He had to be flexible at the last second. His closest friends deserted Him. Those in authority constantly badgered Him. People mocked Him and goaded Him. He knows.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. ~ Hebrews 4:15

Jesus experienced rejection, hatred, scorn, abandonment (by His disciples and His own Father), and much more, but He did not sin in the way He reacted to those things. He was honest in His cry of "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" but He did not reject His mission or His Father at that point. He was obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2).

We must daily pray that we may have the mind of Christ. When we meet with joy and pain, gladness and frustration, hope and despair, ungodly anger and righteous indignation, unkindness and overwhelming blessing, unfairness and injustice (completely different things!), doubt and trust, and the myriad of other emotions that daily confront us, we will be able to respond aright if we have asked the Holy Spirit to help us put on the mind of Christ.

Remember, honesty is not always the best policy if you are 'expressing yourself' from wrong motives or in a sinful way. Look into the pages of Scripture, and into the eyes of Christ crucified, for direction on how to deal honestly with your emotions.

1 comment:

  1. oh...ouch. these are some excellent truths. I praise God for putting you in my life, Jody. :)