It was late at night and I had turned to the sink to wash my face before bed. This routine action is usually quickly done. However, on that day, I stood bent, staring down at the water in my hands: clear, transparent and inviting. The thought, This water is not clean, crept into my mind. Although it had an outward vision of seeming clean, every warning about tap-water in China I’ve ever heard flooded through my mind in quick succession, like tuning the dial of a radio with the same message on each channel. I can’t see them, but I know that micro-organisms swim beneath the surface. I may use it for external washing, bathing, cleaning, and rinsing, but I do not partake.
Nevertheless, I splashed the water onto my face, enjoying the refreshment, and headed off to bed.
Later that week, with a yoga mat under my arm, I internally evaluated my interaction with the women I had just exercised with. Did I make enough eye contact? Was my answer to that question clear? Why did the conversation seem a little awkward to me as we rolled up our mats and made small talk? These are some of my best friends, so how could I feel so ungraceful?
The word sincerity popped into my mind.
I was not being sincere.
Too often I answer questions and wade through conversation with “how are they perceiving me?” pricking at my mind. This happens not only with our expat community, but in the classroom with students, and out and about with other nationals. My conversations are shrouded in impure motives and insincere intentions. Like a rusty nail dropped into a cup of water, the water may still seem clear, but I would not drink it.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:
For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
Pure intentions, sincere motives, and a clear gospel
I need to show up with boldness, not to please man but to please God by gently, affectionately thinking of the other instead of myself. I should not seek glory from others. These friends are dear to Jesus and dear to me. Our appeal for the gospel should be for the sake of the gospel, not the sake of ourselves.
An uncomfortable conversation taught me that. Uncomfortable on my part anyway. I don’t even know if the others felt this way about the conversation. Yet it slid my heart into a deeper understanding of myself. It heightened the reminder to slough off pretext, flattery and seemingly harmless worry about the eyes-of-man, and put on boldness, gentleness and care for the other.
What challenges do the words “Pure Intentions, a Clear Gospel” put to your lifestyle and work? Do you need to reevaluate anything you are doing? Take notice of the next time you feel that inkling of worry about the perception of others, and enjoy the freedom in being your sincere self.