Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Observation On Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy. Wikipedia defines it as
 "the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not in actual fact hold. It is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another.In Moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles."
Human beings are really good at hypocrisy. And it's not just something that unbelievers have a problem with, but Christians as well. How often have you heard someone say, "The Bible says X is a sin," but you know that they do that very thing when they think no one is looking? Let's face it: Society is stuck in the mire of hypocrisy. It's a disease that is often misdiagnosed as "parental prerogative" or "higher standards". The problem with this is three fold:

  1. People no longer trust each other.
  2. Their standards change with their life experience instead of with the Bible.
  3. Teenagers can't take it anymore and give up on the church and their "parent's religion".
Let's call it what it is, dear readers. When you say one thing, yet you do something totally different, that's hypocrisy.

In my own life I have experienced the detrimental effects of this state of being. When I was pretty young, we were visiting our missions training school, The Master's Mission, and we met a really neat family. Their oldest son was about my age and since we were the only ones in that age group, we spent a lot of time playing and watching our siblings together. He was a nice kid, but had a temper and was constantly picking on his siblings. Toward the end of our stay, I couldn't take it anymore. While he was picking on one of the younger kids, I told him off. I got mad, he got mad, and that was the end of our friendship. Many years later, after God got a hold on and shook some sense into me, I realized what I had done. The way he acted toward his brother and sisters was how I acted toward mine. His temper was just as bad as mine (actually, mine was worse). I began to wonder why I had done that. Then it hit me. When he was picking on his brother and sisters, I saw myself. I saw how badly I treated my own siblings. But instead of humbling myself and changing, I held him to a higher standard, then punished him for not meeting it. Oh, how my heart breaks to write this! 

If I had just realized that my real problem was myself, then I could have saved a friendship. I could have saved myself and others much heartache both then and later down the road. I could have nothing to regret.

But hypocrisy is blinding.

So next time someone says one thing and does another, ask yourself, "Why does it bother me?" Search your own heart to see if what is really bothering you is your own double-mindedness. Only then can you ask, "Do they even realize that they are doing it?" and help them. 

"You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." -Matthew 7:5

Where are you playing the hypocrite? Think about it. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Life In Art

I've always thought that life was like a painting. Each person has their own and they are all unique. Some people's have primarily dark colors, others have mostly bright ones, but each one has a mixture of both. No one's life is either all happy or all sad. No matter what you may be feeling right now, at some point in time you experienced the full range of emotion.

Veduta Di Piazza Della Signoria by Carlo Canella

Emotions. Good and bad situations. Think of them as the colors in your painting. Each one produces a different shape, shade, or effect to bring about the beauty that is your whole life. And it is beautiful. The only problem is that we as human beings only get to see one stroke at a time. But God sees the whole picture.

Action painting by VenusVanity
Everyone seems to fall into one of two categories: A Veduta or an action painting. For those of us who are not fine art connoisseurs, a Veduta is a highly detailed painting (usually of a city scape). An action painting, also known as gestural abstraction, is one that has been created by dribbling, smearing, or splashing paint "randomly" onto a canvas. See where I'm going with this?

Some people's paintings are so detailed, the brushstrokes so fine, that we are drawn to analyse them. We step up close and pore over every little action, word, and circumstance in their lives, reveling in all the moments that combined together to form the whole. It's kind of like they have tiny masterpieces within the larger one. On the other hand, there are paintings that, when seen up close, look messy, uncoordinated, and make no sense. Their lives are just not what we would call successful. In fact, we would rather skip over those people and move onto the Vedutas like Steve Jobs or Billy Graham. It's not until we take a step back and see the painting as a whole that we realize....

It's beautiful.

It's unique.

No one will be able to reproduce it ever again in this life.

And those are the types of people who sometimes are looked down upon or are pitied. People think, "Their life is a mess! Someone should totally grab a paintbrush and fix it for them."

But you know what? Harriet Tubman's life was an action painting and she smuggled hundreds of souls to freedom. So was Gladys Alward's- she couldn't even graduate from theology school! And yet the things she did to further Christ and save a hundred orphans from the Japanese invasion? They were amazing.

So, yes, up close your life may not seem glamorous or even put together right, but from far away....

You're life is breath-taking.

Never forget:

You are a masterpiece.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Education: The Timothy Method

You know, I've never felt like I was prepared for life. I guess I kind of was, but I didn't feel like it. It seems like I got a crash course in life and was told, "Now, go get it." Sometimes I wonder if there was a better way to learn. Like apprenticeships.

Think about it. Way back in colonial times they couldn't go to schools to learn their trades. Smithing was taught by the smiths, sailing by the sailors, altering clothes by the tailors, etc. It was so simple then: you watched someone do what they did, practiced at it until you got good enough to sell what you made, then after a few years of working under them, you were told you were now a smithy or sailor or tailor. It required muscle memory. It was hands on. It was simple.

What have we done by institutionalizing education? Education is now a business taught by people who teach a general education because that's what they were taught to do. A child who wants to become a plumber doesn't get courses in plumbing, but they do get the periodic table of the elements. They memorize them and a lot of other things that they will promptly forget as soon as possible to make room for their next class or test. We are raising our children to become a generation of passive learners. They absorb, spit it back out, and never save a copy to their mental hard drives. It's no wonder that many college students still don't know how to use proper punctuation or spell. It's no wonder that we have to repeat instructions three or four times before they remember how to do something.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't learn the periodic table or other "nonessential" things, but I am saying that our detached, unemotional way of teaching doesn't seem to be getting the job done. Let's face it: many students don't want to learn and many teachers don't want to teach. Children leave school with the idea that the point of working is to make enough money that they no longer have to work. And that's wrong. We need people who want to work because they enjoy what they are doing and want to contribute to their community. We need people who would work at their chosen occupation even if they only made $8.00 an hour because they love it. (Even if it's plumbing.)

Maybe our society is too far gone. Maybe we have too many rules and regulations to do things differently. I don't know. But I hope that maybe someday soon things will change. Maybe someday we will raise up a generation of Timothy's.

Young Timothy's education was a pretty thorough one. In Acts chapter sixteen alone we see many ways in which Paul prepared his little disciple to go out into the mission field. Take a look at Paul's steps in Timothy's apprenticeship:
  • Interest and invitation (Acts 16:1-3)
  • Instruction in wisdom (v. 3)
  • Hands on work (v.4-5)
  • Lesson in listening to the Spirit (v.6-9)
  • Demonstration of obedience to the Spirit (v. 10-12)
  • Lesson in dealing with differing demographics (v.13-14)
  • Demonstration of God's/Jesus' power (v.16-18, 25-26)
  • Demonstration of suffering for the sake of Christ (v. 22-24)
Notice how Paul took him under his wing. Notice how sometimes Timothy was involved in the lessons/work and sometimes he was just to sit back and watch the demonstration. Notice how detailed and involved the preparation for his "work" was.

Now, obviously, Timothy still felt a little insecure/ill prepared by the time Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy, otherwise he wouldn't have said things like "Let no one despise you for your youth" (4:12). But I bet he was a whole lot more prepared than most kids of this generation will be.

So what can we do to improve education today? Did you have a "Paul" in your life to help guide you along? Do you think the current "generalized" system of learning is effective?