Monday, August 18, 2008

What do others see?

Steve DeNeff writes in his book on holiness, “our holiness belongs to others as surely as a fire belongs to those people it warms.” This week’s evidence of holiness is going to ask you to look at yourself from a completely different point of view; that of other people’s. We have spent a lot of time talking about self-evaluation and asking introspective questions. (Wow! I didn’t even know that I knew what ‘introspective’ means much less how to use it! I looked it up so I know it is right. I must be getting smarter. I can feel my brain expanding as I type; no wait that is just me getting a big head!) One of the downsides to this is that we tend to look at ourselves through rose-colored glasses. It is human nature; do not feel bad about it. We just have to overcome it by finding out what others think. Other people will always have an honest evaluation of you in mind. They aren’t always willing to honestly share it, but they will have it. The trick is to give them the freedom to be totally and maybe even brutally, honest with you. Holiness is perfect love and God says in John 13:35 that it is our love for one another that will tell the world who we are. They have the God-given right to determine if our love for them and God is perfect. So here are some more questions to answer:
Do other people see it in the believer? Other people can see things in us that we cannot or will not see. We are naturally biased for ourselves. Others have a point of view of us that we could not possibly achieve. We can try to get outside of ourselves and look in all we want to but without the help and input of those who are really there, we cannot reach it. My fraternity used to do this thing that really helped us evaluate ourselves. We called it “The Hot-seat.” One fraternity brother would sit in a chair while the rest of the brothers would sit in chairs in a circle around that brother. We had 10-15 minutes to randomly fire positive remarks at the brother in the middle. Then we had the same amount of time to say things to him that we felt needed improvement. This was to build brotherhood, build us into better individuals, and thereby build a better fraternity. One improvement they said I needed was that I’m hard-headed and argumentative. I don’t know where they got that, I would have liked for one of them to have justified that but I could not get any of them to! Of course I am kidding about arguing with them that would have defeated the purpose of the exercise. Do other people see the Holy Spirit alive and well in your life?
Can others feel the presence of God when they are around the believer? Do they feel the love and passion of God or the judgment and condemnation of the Church? Do they sense that the believer’s life is one that is truly directed by God or someone who is just pretending? God has a huge presence and if He is present in the life of the believer then others around them will feel it also. When Jesus just came close to the demon possessed the demons felt Him. If you are truly holy others will feel the presence of God when you are around.
Is the believer considered a hypocrite? Most of the time, those who spend time with us know us the best. At least they know our behavior the best. Others will know if your actions live up to the beliefs you claim. They may sometimes expect perfection when perfection is unattainable, but how you handle those slip-ups will speak volumes to them about the sincerity of your heart. If you accept responsibility, ask for forgiveness, and then move on; you show holiness. If you blame others for your actions, then it is obvious to them that God is not living in you.
This is not necessarily the test because people could be wrong for a number of reasons. Good actions are not necessarily evidence that holiness is there, but the absence of them is great evidence that holiness isn’t there either. People could misunderstand your actions. After all, only you know what the intention of your heart truly is; whether it is pure or selfish.
Even still, the thoughts of others are great indicators. What does your spouse think? Would your children say you are holy? Maybe you see more holiness than is really there. Or maybe you are too hard on yourself and your family sees holiness when you do not. How about people you work or go to school with? Do they know that you are different? If your enemy attacked you for being a hypocrite would others be able, or willing, to come to your defense? What evidence would they use? What evidence would your enemy use against you? Does your holiness belong to others or are you trying to keep it all for yourself?