Dr. Norman Vincent Peale was a great motivational speaker and preacher. He tells this story on himself that I’ve always loved. “A drunk saw Peale across a busy restaurant. ‘Dr. Peale, Dr. Peale, he cried out. ‘I’ve gotta speak to you.’ Here, surely, Peale thought, is a soul in need. The drunk came over, weaving, breath inflammable. ‘Dr. Peale,’ he said, ‘I can’t tell you how much your books have changed my life.’ Pause. Double take. Whereupon, … the man passed out cold at his feet.” While we laugh at this bit of self-deprecating humor, I can’t help but wonder that Dr. Peale was thinking something like, “Please don’t tell anyone else.”
I have to admit that there are times that I cringe at the behavior of others who call themselves Christians. I read or hear about cults that take a smidgen of God’s truth and twist it way out of its original meaning and uses that interpretation to control others. There are some so-called Christians who seem to think that proclaiming how much God hates certain people is a virtuous thing to do. Another, more personal example, happened to a friend of mine recently. She had a slight accident, not even a fender bender, and as my friend got out of the car to check on the damage, she encountered the other driver who was going ballistic. She was shouting, screaming, and cussing my friend out, and then, to top it off, told her that she was a Christian. This is cringeworthy behavior from a Christian. It seems that it might help this driver to remember these words of Paul: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5 NIV)
Paul’s words might seem strange to a church that was dealing with the effects of pressure from the Jewish Christians and possible persecution from the Romans, but they were a strong reminder then, and now, that we have great reason to rejoice in any circumstance. This doesn’t mean being cheerful all the time, because we endure troubles just like everyone else. What it means is that in the midst of our troubles, we recognize God’s presence. No matter what issues we may face, we can rejoice in God’s presence because He will guide us, if we ‘ll follow Him. The human thing to do when trouble comes is to lash out at others, to find someone else to blame, to lose our cool. Paul’s admonition that Christians should be known by their gentleness blows the natural responses out of the water. Let’s face it, if you need to tell someone that you’re a Christian because you’re yelling at them for doing something wrong, somehow, you’ve strayed from God’s call to follow Him.
Those who know me might see this verse and say “Physician, heal thyself.” I’ve always had a problem with anger. Worse still, I’ve been more likely to take that anger out on my family in the past. While I’ve improved in the way I deal with anger, I still have issues. That’s why I chose this passage to write about. I need to learn to rejoice in the midst of any circumstance, recognizing that whatever may be happening, God can find a way to use it to help me grow in Him. I need to show gentleness and grace to others who have wronged me because my ultimate goal isn’t winning the game of life, so to speak, it’s helping others learn how to live for Christ. Showing gentleness towards others instead of a justified anger may be what draws them to Christ. What I have to learn to keep me from being a cringeworthy Christian, is that those things that anger me are unimportant in the long run; what’s important is showing the love and grace of Christ to others.
Lord, keep working on me. Let me show Your love and grace to others even when I think I’d be justified in being angry. Remind me of how much more Your rejoiced and showed gentleness in Your life.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.