We are daily bombarded with lies and it is important to be able to tell when something we hear on TV or from another individual is a lie. But sometimes the lies come in our own mind, as our own thoughts. Those lies are sometimes harder to discern.
Recently I had an experience in which a thought came into my head, and it kept repeating. I even felt a compulsion to share it with others throughout the day. It arose as the result of an incident in which someone I know was being mean to someone else I know and love. The thought I kept having was “mean people suck.” I believe there is even a bumper sticker that says this. And at first blush it sounds right. Nobody likes mean people, not even mean people.
Yet every time I thought it, and especially when I shared it out loud with my husband (after having been thwarted all day in my attempts to find someone else to tell), I had this feeling of unease, like something just wasn’t right. I’m pretty sure now that it was the Holy Spirit trying to tell me that this thought was a lie because it wasn’t the whole truth.
Then I went to the Casting Crowns concert (I told you this concert would come up again) and it all became clear. Mark Hall, the lead singer for Casting Crowns began talking about Paul and how he boasted in his weaknesses and how Christ had saved him from the sinner that he had been. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15 (NIV). Before he knew Christ, Paul was what anyone would call a mean person. He stood by watching with approval as Stephen was stone. See Acts 7:54-60 (NIV). He set out to systematically persecute and kill all of the Christians, and even headed out on the long, hot road to Damascus for that murderous purpose. See Acts 9:1-19 (NIV).
But as mean as Paul was, God did not simply say he sucked and leave him in his sin. No, Jesus Christ came to Paul on that road to Damascus and changed his heart and mind. Paul then became zealous in his service to Christ, and a really nice and loving person.
As I listened to Mark at the concert, I realized that the problem with the thought that “mean people suck” is that it leaves out the love of God in their lives and fails to recognize and rely on the ability of God to save even the worst of mean people. I realized that instead of complaining about mean people, I need to pray for them, to pray that God would change their hearts. I also need to be an example, as Paul was after his conversion, of the change God can make in the hearts of the worst of sinners. I realized that before I knew Christ, there were times when I was mean (truth be told, sometimes I still am, though much less often), but God didn’t just say I sucked and leave me there.
On His way to the cross, Jesus definitely encountered some mean people. They beat Him, spit in His face, placed a crown of thorns on His head, and crucified Him, even though He had done no wrong to them. But His response was not to ask the Father to give them what they deserved. No, His response was to say “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NIV). Often when people are mean we are sure it is intentional, and that they know exactly what they are doing. We think they deserve whatever punishment or bad things that happen to them because of their meanness. But Jesus said these people who had beat and crucified Him didn’t know what they were doing. Surely they knew they were beating and crucifying Him, so what was it they didn’t know? Why did He believe they should be forgiven?
Perhaps it was that they had been deceived in their own minds into thinking that they were doing what was right in the name of God. Perhaps they thought that their mean actions were justified, but they were unable to discern the lies in their own thinking. They were unable to discern lies in their own minds.
This experience has reminded me that I need to be careful about believing everything I think. I need to listen for that check in my spirit that something isn’t quite right and turn to God’s Word as a measuring rod for whether my own thoughts are the whole truth.