One of Fred's co-workers said to him, "You know a true Christian by how he responds under fire." My patient, people-loving, trusting husband has been sorely tested by his real estate clients. They have really pushed him to the limits of his goodness and kindness. In his frustration, he was sounding off on what he would like to say to them when the whole transaction is over.
A friend of mine works under difficult conditions and has an office manager who is rude to her. I can't understand that because Diane is such a lovable, affable kind of person. But I do know how office politics can work. In order not to respond in a negative way when this manager attacks her, Diane writes scripture on index cards and takes them to work. When Diane feels she is ready to blow, she pulls out a card and reads it over. She says it calms her and she can better let things go rather than retaliate. Scripture reminds her of her identity in Christ.
Serving in the Alpha ministry at church has been a real test for me, a test I think I failed some weeks. Fred and I are nearing the end of six years of cooking for about 50 people every week. I could list many grievances I've had working in the kitchen, but there is no use re-hashing it all. If you think because you work at church, conditions are different than they are in the "world," you would be wrong. People are people, the same the world over, the same throughout time. I have always been accused of over-reacting to situations. So I have complained; I have gossiped. I have not always been kind to those who wronged me.
Take this to a more serious level. As we watch in horror what is happening in Japan, I think about the individual people there. Moms, dads, and children suffering cold, hunger, thirst, and fear, in addition to grief. Evacuated from their homes, if they even have a home left. Living in shelters in crowded conditions interacting with others who are also suffering. I can't imagine. And we think we have problems?
It makes me wonder how I would react in a crisis. Would my true nature rear its ugly head (the one I keep hidden from the public) or would I respond in love and compassion, in the way God has always responded to me? "Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love as Christ loved us." (Ephesians 5:1) Would I complain bitterly or console others? If I look at my past experiences, I would have to say I wouldn't fare so well. A sobering thought.
Jesus said you can't hide your true self for long. It will erupt in your words. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) An instinctive response to an unexpected situation reveals the condition of a person's heart.
But back to what Fred's co-worker said. I have to somewhat disagree. If you respond badly under fire, it does not necessarily mean you are not a Christian. It just shows you need to rely more on God, like my friend Diane. We need to thank God for our blessings, and ask him for help. Our words and actions under stress reveal our need.