St. Paul speaks to us in Thessalonians 5, verse 22: "Abstain from all appearances of evil." And both alternatives do give us the appearance of either arrogance or disloyalty, so thinking about this is important for both new Christians and for those of us that have been calling ourselves followers of Christ for years.
We don't have to rant and rave at people about their "sins". After all, if someone is not a follower of Christ there is no reason to expect them to make themselves uncomfortable trying to adhere to a standard of behavior that they have not professed to follow. And for all of us following Christ, the Spirit of God is planting wisdom and strength and does not need US to fix every person within the church either! Remember, we speak loudest when we SAY nothing but DO things in obviously new ways, showing love where the World shows disdain or indifference.
- We can politely mention new activities (I think I found a church where I can understand more about being kind...like Jesus OR I had a great time helping at the homeless center this weekend).
- We can be extraordinarily noticeable by apologizing when we realize we have been thoughtless or failed to help when the opportunity came before us.
- We can plan to attend an event that will lift us up in stead of going to an event where we are are likely to make poor choices or be depressed or embarrassed afterwards.
Over the years we can expect to grow in understanding and discernment* and more consistently make choices to opening ourselves to new understanding and becoming more centered in our values. This is far less painful for everyone than is dashing off using our own undisciplined instincts, but figuring all this out takes practicing our faith.
So as we are thoughtful and intentional (and prayerful) about our choices we can consider: will this help me grow in trust and understanding OR is it likely to make me feel more fearful and hopeless? As I make choices today, will I position myself for growing in love and peace OR for welcoming more anger or frustration or bitterness into my life?
Holy Father, as I make my way through this day, help me to be thoughtful and wise, not out of fear of what others will think or out of a false belief that I can "win favor from You by being good". Rather because Your Spirit is teaching me to love You more deeply and trust more fully that You always work for my highest good. AMEN
* 2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:9