Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love Must be Sincere

To continue from this morning's post to the blog carnival, let's look inside our church walls. Here is where the theme for this week, kindness, is most evident. We can fake our way with strangers, but it's much harder to fake with brothers and sisters in Christ that we see on a regular basis.

Or is it? I would challenge any of you to walk into a church that's not your own and not come away saying something like, "that congregation was so kind." Now return to your spiritual comfort zone. Isn't the same true? Isn't the Ned Flanders cliche Christian nice? Kind? Sometimes overwhelmingly so! But just like how we treat those outside our church walls, we fake our way with our spiritual peers. I'm sure you've had this conversation:

"Hey bro, how are things at home?"

"Oh, you know, alright. The same ole, same ole."

"Yeah, I hear you. Same with me. Well, I'll pray for you."

That sounds kind. But is the love behind it sincere? Remember the literal translation from Romans 12:9 is "without hypocrisy". When we think of hypocrisy, we often think of outright, obvious sins. But we can also be hypocrites with our lack of openness and transparency, our lip-service concern for one another, and our boastings of our own spiritual maturity.

That's just one case. Another, more painful, example is how we treat those with whom we disagree with spiritually, or worse those who have left our spiritual family. My fellowship of churches has a bad, but deserved, reputation for how we treat other Christians outside our spiritual clique. I was reminded of this again when my wife was spending quality time with an old friend from campus ministry. She left my church years ago and has been looked down upon ever since. It has been hard for my wife to rebuild that friendship because there was doubt about the sincerity of her love, of her kindness. What was my wife's motive? Was she trying to goad her friend into returning to church? Or is she herself struggling so much as to spend time with one such as her? Last weekend these questions and more came out and I admire my wife's maturity in addressing them. She does sincerely love her friend. She has no motive other than to be a friend, though she does have genuine concern for her spiritual health. She was kind.

Another sad example is how we are tempted to "love bomb" new visitors to church, but forget them once they become regulars. Again, this is not sincere and makes our demonstrated love at the beginning nothing but hypocrisy. Are you as excited to see someone new on Sunday morning as you are to see the same faces you have for years? I think about this often as I roam the fellowship on Sundays. I make every effort to greet everyone I know with a sincere "how are you? Great to see you!" And those I don't know I make sure to greet with a warm smile. I don't always remember the prayers I say I'm going to pray, but I always remember them as people, not as nameless faces that crowd the pews.

To be honest, I'm not always kind. I have a biting sarcasm that I'm tempted to use to passive-aggressively hurt others. I can be impatient and short tempered. And when that character comes out, the first thing I think of is how I'm not being kind. This is true not just at church, or with non-believers as these posts have been about, but also with my family at home. But no matter what, I always strive to love sincerely, without hypocrisy.

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:2)

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)


Anonymous said...

Great follow up to this morning. I need to spend some time meditating on that Colossians verse.

Fatha Frank said...

Thanks for letting me cheat. :)

Interesting how love, kindness, and forgiveness all seem to tie together here. That wasn't intentional.

Glynn said...

Sunday church relationships tend to be superficial, possibly because there is so much hurrying and scurrying that we don't have the time to talk or to listen. It's a little better in a Sunday School class, but not much. And the bigger the church, the more the problem is magnified. We have to look for ways to change this I think.

Good post, Fatha Frank.

Helen said...

I found that since becoming more involved in my parish, I have made closer friendships.

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