Recently we had a visit from two religious workers, from an organization which will remain unnamed, who suggested we distribute their literature to our “young people.” The pair’s organization is not considered to be an orthodox Christian group and they don’t consider our fellowship to be part of the true church. This might not seem that unusual, but they came right up to our office (in the heart of “the enemy’s camp”) to do their proselytizing. This must have been a thrilling and bold mission for them. For me it was a lesson in smugness.
After politely telling these ladies that we were not interested and that we have obvious disagreements with them, the leader of their team, not to be put off, proceeded to ask others in the office if they would personally want the material. After another round of polite rebuffing the couple left. What struck me, beside the sheer audacity, was that the feeling they gave me was similar to the impact some Christians have had on me, in particular those Christians that know they are right and know they have the truth and know that you need what they have. I searched for a word to describe this feeling and “smug” came to mind. “Smug” sounds so negative, but after looking it up in the dictionary, I had to admit that it captured perfectly the attitude of those with the, “We’re the ones,” mentality. Smug means contentedly confident of one’s ability, superiority, or correctness. We’re right, and you’re not.
Confession time: I have been smug more times than I’d care to admit. I’ve also met a lot of smug people in my life. Maybe one of the clues that shows us we’re smug is if we think we’ve never been. You’ve got to wonder how God puts up with us. But my point here isn’t to show how un-smug I am now, but to express grief and encourage a little humility. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of our problems come from thinking too highly of ourselves.
Perhaps those on a truth crusade genuinely realize that if someone is embracing lies it will be destructive to them. And with that I say a wholehearted, “Amen.” But why aren’t truth crusaders kind? Shouldn’t a love of the truth make us more gentle and generous? Is the real motive behind truth crusading to make myself feel superior? That would explain why warmth and kindness seems to be lacking in many who feel they must convert or correct you. The ultimate truth is love.
I’m not getting wishy-washy in my old age. I’m just seeing that God is more generous than I ever conceived and the world is bigger than I ever imagined. I also realize that if I have not love, I am just a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. Truth should transform us. It should make us more like Christ. Yes, truth divides. Yes, truth is worth standing up for. But let’s understand that the ultimate demonstration that we’re committed to truth is through our deference and humility. As Harry Conn used to say, “True education humbles a person, not puffs them up.”