I suppose the reader’s bar is set pretty low when you visit a site entitled “Confessions of a Bad Christian”. That is the title of my blog. So I don’t imagine you will be at all surprised to learn that I love the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. And that my favorite character is a mean, cynical, self-centered rodent named Rat. I love Rat because he exposes the dark side that the rest of us try to whitewash and hide. Today’s strip was classic.
Rat is talking to his porcine pal named, surprisingly, Pig. Creator/Strip Writer Stephen Pastis didn’t agonize over character names.
The cynical Rat has decided to make two lists and everyone in the world will be slotted onto one list or the other.
List number one is called “People I don’t like” and the other list is “People I can’t stand”. The sensitive and caring Pig immediately sees the hopelessness and cynicism in such categorizations. “Oh, That’s very cynical Rat…you need to make a third list of people you like and give it a nice little title.” Rat grows thoughtful and proclaims that Pig is right. He draws up the third list and titles it…
There are days that I relate a little too closely to Rat’s worldview. (There is a sentence I never imagined I would write) It is so easy to grow frustrated, cynical, and even bitter toward people and especially other Christians. It is easy. It can even be fun. But there is another three letter word that can describe that approach to others in the body of Christ.
And it is nothing new. Paul addressed a little “situation” in the church at Philippi. This is a church that Paul loved. A church that he called his partner and that had a special place in his heart. Sounds like all systems were go, right? Not exactly. Paul addresses a church rift between two Godly women in his letter to the Philippians.
Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. NLT
Paul does not indicate any false teaching or any moral shortcomings with these two leaders in the church. Yet this was a big enough issue for news to reach Paul as he was being held prisoner in Rome. And Paul raises a great point for us to remember. He reminds everyone that these two women were co-laborers who had contended at the very side of the Apostle for the Gospel. They are both Christians whose names were in the book of life. Yet they had a disagreement serious enough for Paul to weigh in from Rome. He decides to be Switzerland by remaining neutral in the dispute. He simply pointed out the focal point of unity…the Lord Jesus.
God has been teaching me that it is far more important to Him for me to be righteous than to be right. I am prone to reverse His preferred order. I find it fascinating that this plea to resolve a church dispute is the beginning context for some of the most quoted verses in the Bible. Resolve your differences, he advises, by concentrating on this…
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
That incredible passage comes out of the context of conflict. Wow.
Abraham Lincoln once made this powerful observation about our nature…If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.
And if we have a hard time finding it you can count on Satan lending a helping hand. When I reflect on the comic strip character Rat’s list from above I realize one undeniable fact. If you are around me long enough I am a “Future Disappointment” waiting to happen. The only question is when. And you will make my list too. At that point we would be wise to remember more advice from Paul...this time to the Galatians.
If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. The Message