I am a people-pleaser. I like to make people happy. I want people to like me.
This is not always a bad thing. But it is a bad thing when tough words are called for.
John Wesley writes in his journal of the following exchange with a Mr. Oglethorpe. This conversation occurred early in Wesley’s life, during his extremely difficult mission in Georgia:
He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?” I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused and said, “I know He is the Saviour of the world.” “True,” replied he; “but do you know He has saved you?” I answered, “I hope He has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.” But I fear they were vain words. (Wesley, John (2009-06-09). The Journal of John Wesley – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 500-504). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.)
John Wesley was a Christian. As he said, he knew and affirmed that Jesus is the Savior. But Ogelthorpe digs a bit deeper, getting personal, asking Wesley if he has taken this truth to heart. Though Wesley said “I do” he realized those words were false.
I think such a question strikes us as offensive today. Most of us would respond to such questions with anger, seeing the person asking it as judgmental. That said, it is difficult to ask these questions without being judgmental and arrogant. It takes a gifted person, the type this Mr. Ogelthorpe certainly was, to ask such pointed questions with clear love and care that leads to honesty on the person being asked.
I originally wrote this post a few days ago and now I can’t help but think of the tweet by Mark Driscoll yesterday where he basically called President Obama a fake Christian. There is a world of difference between two men having a serious dialogue, as Ogelthorpe and Wesley did, and a man publicly claiming something about someone he has no personal knowledge of. Driscoll’s tweet is judgmental and arrogant. On the other hand, I find Ogelthorpe’s question to Wesley to be appropriate, seeing as it is in the context of a private discussion between two men who know and care about each other.
It is clear from reading Wesley’s journal that he certainly was a Christian. This question is not about Wesley being a fake Christian. It is more about him having a weak, superficial Christian faith. Wesley had what he called a “summer religion” – something that works when things went well but not in the face of suffering:
“I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? who, what is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief? I have a fair summer religion. I can talk well; nay, and believe myself, while no danger is near; but let death look me in the face, and my spirit is troubled. Nor can I say, ‘To die is gain!’ (Wesley, John (2009-06-09). The Journal of John Wesley – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 792-795). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition).
As I ponder on this, I ask myself a series of questions:
Am I open to in-your-face, serious, even at times nearly offensive questions from trusted people?
Am I willing to move past superficial questions and ask others challenging questions?