Gullible Grace.

gullible

adjective trustinginnocentnaiveunsuspectinggreensimplesillyfoolishunsophisticatedcredulousborn yesterdaywet behind the ears (informal), easily taken in, unsceptical, as green as grass I’m so gullible I believed him.
antonyms: worldlysophisticatedsuspiciouscynicaluntrusting
Another one of my ‘dictionary’ entries, I suppose.
So last week a friend/coworker/supervisor (we have a complicated relationship) told me that when she first met me, not only did she think that I was homeschooled, and had lived a very sheltered childhood, but she told me that she “couldn’t believe that someone as gullible as [me] has survived for so long.”
We’re relatively good friends, we spend lots of time together at work, and have gone out for dinner a number of times, and in general, I feel like she’s someone I can trust.  I know she cares about me (she’s not one to either be emotional or even talk about emotions, but she has told me that she does care), and I know she didn’t intend to hurt me.  She’s very intelligent, logical, sarcastic, cynical, and quite frankly, judgmental, and so I never take her jabs to heart.
This time, however,I can’t seem to shake off her words.  She said that people must take advantage of me all the time, because I believe the good in people and am too trusting.
For one, I haven’t been taken advantage of in a major way (to my knowledge), and I tend not to surround myself with disingenuous people in the first place.  In addition, I’m a product of the public school system, but I will admit to having lived a suburban childhood and college experience. After I graduated, I lived in a neighborhood in the city of Chicago that had blue police cameras (indicating high crime), was in the process of being gentrified, but for the most part was full of families (and a couple gangs).
For some reason though, her words have made me take a closer look at myself.  Is there a Biblical basis for my trusting outlook on life and others?  Or am I being naive and my worldview needs to shift?  Who does God call us to be?  What should our interactions with others look like?
I am optimistic, generally joyful, and I will give people the benefit of the doubt, unless they have given me reason not to.  I also realize that people act certain ways oftentimes as a product of what they’ve experienced in their lives, though I wholeheartedly believe that God can and does take the worst experiences and turn that pain into deep loving compassion in many people. We often don’t know the struggles that people have experienced or are currently experiencing, so how can we judge?
On the flip side of things, it is true that we are all sinful people.  No one is righteous, no not even one.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3).  We all have within us the capacity for evil, since they day that we were born.  Not just the capacity, or the ability to do evil–but even so far as the propensity for evil.  We are naturally inclined to walk in ways that go against what our Creator desires for us.
How many times have we done something that we knew was wrong, or unkind, but we willingly did it anyway?  Paul puts it best–“I don’t understand what I do.  What I want to do, I cannot do, and I hate what I do.”   We know that murder, lying, cheating, lust, all carries penalties.  We have seen the scars that selfishness has left upon the earth as we’ve pillaged and plundered resources and force children to mine minerals and ores for little to no pay.  We have seen marriages end because of lust and lack of self control.  We have seen friendships end over lies.  And we have seen and known the tears and heartache that come from having someone we care about ripped out of our embrace too soon.  Whole industries are made profitable upon the backs of others, whether they are children, men, or women because of the selfishness of consumers.
Does this mean that we should consider all people to be completely base and corrupt?  Does this mean that we should seek to protect our own selves by expecting the worst in others?
Does this mean that we only let people into our hearts in so far as they deserve?
Perhaps, to some.  There is certainly wisdom in guarding your heart, as Proverbs says that the wellspring of life flows from it.  And in truth, there are a lot of people who will take advantage of your kindness or your trusting nature.
When I was younger, I attended a church in Chicago’s Chinatown.  On Sundays, Chinatown was full of people who would come and catch a glimpse of Chinese culture.  In addition, there were a lot of people who lived on the streets, and often asked for money.  Our church has a policy of not giving money out, but instead offering a meal and if there’s time, company.  One Sunday, one of my friends brought a man into one of the restaurants and told him he could have whatever he wanted to eat.  He ordered the most expensive dish on the menu, but unfortunately, my friend couldn’t stay to talk.  She rushed off to Sunday School, and left the man waiting there for his takeout.  As soon as my friend had left, the man asked to cancel the order and take the money instead.  Another person at our church watched the exchange, and told us later what had transpired.
A small thing, but the principle is the same.  People will take what they want from you, especially if you seem like an easy target.
But we are called to Love.  It’s the second greatest commandment, behind loving the Lord.  To love one another as Jesus has loved us, and by this all people will know that we are His.
To be willing to lay down your life for your friends.
I could be wrong, but I can’t think of an instance where we are told to withhold anything from others.  If anything, he tells us to spend ourselves on behalf of the poor, to give the cloak off our backs, to turn the other cheek, to open our homes to strangers because in doing so we may be entertaining angels, and yes, ultimately, to be willing to give our lives for others. In addition, when Jesus was sending out disciples, he told them not to bring anything but to rely on people for their needs, building relationships with people in the town, and shaking off the dust when they were rejected.
God as our example won us over not with guilt, laws, and by withholding blessings from us.  He won us over with love and kindness.  It’s his kindness that leads us to repentance, and the law is there to show us how far we have fallen and how we are not capable of living a wholly God pleasing life.  And He gave us the law not to lord it over us and tell us that there is no hope for us, instead he showed us our need and then provided the way to love, to relationship with him at his expense.  He is the one who spent himself on behalf of others.  He is the one that gave his cloak to be cast for lots, his flesh, his blood, his life for us.  If he is the example, we can hold nothing back.
Loving kindness.  Loving generously.  And not expect people to be perfect–but quite the opposite. Know that we are all fallen people, and that should in turn drive us to compassion, and not towards self-protection.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.” C.S. Lewis
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