Paranoia is just smart thinking when everybody’s against you. Heard that years ago from a colleague. Made me laugh then. Still causes me to chuckle now. And I kind of think that, overall, our culture is full of “smart thinkers.” If not full-blown classic paranoiacs, then those who exercise a “healthy level” of distrust. Ours is something of a society of cynics as we assume that everyone is working an angle. While there’s truth that we need to be discerning on the one hand, and willing to earn other’s trust on the other, I fear that all too often we start at a deficit position because our culture assumes everyone is working some sort of personal agenda, be it political, ideological, theological, ecological, physiological, or, from our point of view, simply illogical. And maybe that’s just smart thinking when you’re living in this world. But what if your peer group is of another world?
For our boast is this: the testimony of our conscience that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
(2Corinthians 1:12 ESV)
Paul did what he did with simplicity and godly sincerity. Whether it was suffering for the faith or apparently meddling in the affairs of one of the churches he had planted, his motives were born of a “mental honesty” and free from pretense and hypocrisy. His actions were spurred not from a preconceived agenda he put together but from a divine stewardship he had been given. His motives were pure. His actions were consistent. And his barometer for knowing this to be true? His conscience.
And while I get that when going out into the world we need to be “wise as serpents” (Matt 10:16), I’m also thinking that when hanging out with the family of God we should know such security that, when it comes to our brother and sisters, we receive them being as “innocent as doves.” Without malice of intent, on the up and up, seeking to live by the grace of God in simplicity and sincerity for the glory of God.
But I fear that too often we embrace the world’s “smart thinking.” We convey that even believers have to be received with a measure of “godly suspicion.” That while they are new creations in Christ we don’t really think they’re all that new. That we need to assume they too have an agenda and already know the answers they want, even if they say they are simply asking questions.
Sure, there’s a level of risk in starting from a point of trust with another believer. But isn’t it a risk worthy taking? If when, by determining to behave ourselves in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, and believing that others seeking the kingdom are doing likewise, we portray something in our community which refutes “earthly wisdom” and instead puts on display the grace of God.
Simplicity and godly sincerity, that’s how Paul determined he would govern all his actions. But especially, supremely, those directed toward the people of God.
Sure there may be a place for “smart thinking” as we sojourn, but there’s even more a need for sanctified thinking.
May God’s people be marked by simplicity and sincerity of purpose and may we be known for how we love, and trust, one another.
Because of grace and by His grace. That it might be for His glory.