Friday, May 29, 2009

How Do You Know Who Someone “Really” Is?

Irrespective of geographical location and historical sequencing, people have, and always will remain, people. There are certain qualities which we possess, that transcend culture. The foremost quality is the fact that we are all made in the image of God. Another universal quality, is that every human being is sinful. Both major qualities combine to create interesting characteristics. As human beings, we desire to interact with other humans, understanding where they come from, how their minds work, and how they physically interact. It is a pursuit of meaning as much as it is a pursuit of knowledge. We better understand who we are through our relationship with them. We also tend to want to know how we can be of service, accomplishing inherent purposes placed in us by our Creator. God himself desires a relationship with human beings (even though he thoroughly knows our every instinct and motive). I believe, our pursuit of relationship is a mirror-image of His desire. However, we are not God, and therefore have limited knowledge of other humans. We fear giving of ourselves to unknown persons (especially when it comes to romantic partners, or parental figures) who may turn out to be different than our original impressions. In addition to wanting a relationship due to our being made in the image of God, we possess caution of such relationships because of our realization that every man has the potential to deceive due to his sin nature. We attempt to figure out ways in which to determine someone’s true character. Methods not based in God’s Word however will fail us, leaving us hurt, wronged, and even more cautious than we previously were. My aim is to formulate a mechanism based in God’s word, by which we can wisely apply principles that give us clues as to the true character of a human being. Proverbs 23:6-8 says:

Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
Or desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
He says to you, "Eat and drink!"
But his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten,
And waste your compliments.

Here we have a man who acts hospitable for the wrong reason because his character is selfish. He wants something in return from his friend (correction: victim). This poor soul who is offered the cordial reception does not take into account the host's overall egoistical quality and thus succumbs to the tempting prospect pronounced by his supposed friend. He (the victim) wants to believe, I'm sure, that this kind invitation flows from the best of intentions, but in actuality, it is merely the bait carefully placed in a well-orchestrated trap of self-serving dimensions. The dupe gratefully cherishes the morsels of his "kind-neighbor" only to vomit them up upon the realization that his enjoyable time, precious gifts, and caring companion, were all a temporary ploy to serve the interests of another. Thus, the "hospitable" individual's actions were not consistent with his true motives. It is rightly said that a man can do the right things for the wrong reasons. In
Philippians 1:15-18, Paul noted that many in Rome were preaching the Gospel from wrong motives. However, I do believe that actions, over the long term, do reveal the intentions of the heart. Prov. 16:2-3 bears this out.

All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord,
And your plans will be established.

An individual who continually grows in sanctification, not falling into the same old sins, but rooting all of them out with ultimate dedication; someone who continually strives (victoriously) to do everything for the Lord rather than for any man, will render established plans. An important thing to note in this passage is the first line "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight." This directly answers an aspect of our human question.

“Do you judge someone based on what they do, or what they say?”

The answer is neither, if their motives are misplaced (anything apart from God is misplaced), because man is self deceived according to Prov. 16, and man is cunning with his actions according to Prov. 23.

The apostles themselves were flabbergasted (a highly technical term :)) when it was revealed that Judas of all people was betraying Christ. However, had they examined his motives revealed by the fact that his plans weren't committed to the Lord (i.e. his pilfering of ministerial moneys), and/or had they simply believed what Christ himself said about Judas in front of them (His action of dipping the morsel in his cup), they would have known. Of course, they didn't want to believe that it was Judas (emotions clouded vision), and thus they ignored the indications granted them (a true example of "blind faith").

The same is true today. The Holy Spirit resides in the heart of every believer. We may not have Christ dipping a morsel in the cup of an untrustworthy individual, but we do have an entity living inside us illuminating the Scriptures to reveal true wisdom. We can choose to ignore His illumination, or embrace it. There is also an additional mechanism set up in Scripture. I.E. "in the council of many wisdom is found." Motives have an interesting way of being revealed to folks around us, when we ourselves cannot tell who an individual really is.

Christ Himself gave a basic pattern by which motives can be found in Matthew 15:15-20.

And Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain the parable to us." And He said, "Are you still lacking in understanding also? "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. "These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

It is the combination of what a person say and do over the long term that can clue someone in as to their true intentions. What is said reveals the heart, but one must listen carefully for those things said in moment of indiscretion as well as those stated publicly. It is rightly said that a hypocrite says one thing, but does another. What is said then must be matched to what they do. Actions and reactions reveal what the person believes much better than what they say - since man has a propensity to lie to others (and himself). Jesus tied speech and action together in telling us that motives comes out of the mouth and are revealed in the specific actions listed which include sins of speech and sins of doing.

In short, what a person reveals about themselves does not effectually tell you who that person truly is. It is what's BEHIND what a person reveals that clues you in. Motives are harder to decipher, but with careful examination of actions and speech, coupled with wise council, and the Holy Spirit, a general framework can be laid for figuring such problems out. It's not always an easy formula, but it is a true one.

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