Words of Hope: Pageantry or Practice?

One of my dad’s favorite mentors was a man named Paul Nakai. Paul did so much to elevate our understanding of relational health. He taught us to recognize the often obscured signs of bitterness, blame, or lack of self-responsibility and helped us see these as the foundation of poor relationships. He worked with many Christian organizations who had secretly bitter, negative people in ministry but who truly felt they were living for God. I understand how that can happen. We think we are serving God, but inwardly we may feel angry, burnt out, or jaded. Paul encouraged us to look behind the mask of Christian service and intention to the words, attitudes, mindset, and impact of those doing Christian service. 

This is why we find in our “pious” communities, people living lies–a youth leader who prays all day with students, and then secretly looks at pornography. A mom who wears a large cross but pinches her kids under the table. A leader who claims allegiance to God as the Word but who terrorizes and degrades others with his words. A person who speaks from the pulpit but has an illicit relationship behind the scenes. Christian schoolteachers who love appearing holy but who shame/bully their students and make them cry.  

Why is it easy to lie to ourselves as a Christian community? Do we love the pageantry of Christianity more than the practice of it? Paul in the book of Corinthians reminds me of Paul Nakai. He explains in chapter 13 of the first book what love is and what it is not. Where compassion and love meet, God is there. God is present where love is present.

I can easily evaluate if I am walking with the Lord not the radiance of my own piety by asking myself, “Are my thoughts, words, actions, mindset full of compassion, love and the presence of God and more importantly do those I love and serve feel my love and compassion and presence of God when I am with them?” 

Dad was amazing at this because he didn’t assume the answer, he asked—What can I do to create a more loving and compassionate space for us to love God together?  He genuinely wanted to know the truth and sought for the sound, feel, experience of truth in everything he did. 

Truth has a sound that is much different than lies. Love has a clarity that is much different than bitterness. When we walk in lies and bitterness, we can be deceived but when we walk in the light, everything becomes revealed.

“If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” – I John 1:6-8