Archive for March 3, 2009
Yesterday, a friend of mine who works in a management position called me asking my advice. “I’m having this problem with another employee at my office,” he began. He then proceeded to rip off a whole litany of offenses, shortcomings, integrity issues, and job performance weaknesses that this employee had displayed during his time at the company. After listening to a dizzying and dismal performance report, I asked my buddy, “Have you talked to this employee about all these problems?” “Well,” my buddy continued, “I tried to, but he wouldn’t let me get in a word edgewise. He just kept on talking and talking. I think he knew that we were having some problems with his performance, and he didn’t want to face them.”
How many times has this been true of us? There are some problems with our performance, but we don’t want to face them. And so, we try to cover them up, dress them up, make them up, and excuse them away. In our reading for today from 2 Corinthians 4, however, we learn that this is not the way that our “problems with performance” are to be dealt with. Paul writes in verse 2 that we, as Christians, “have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”
“By setting forth the truth plainly…” That doesn’t sound like any sort of cover up to me. Instead, that sounds like brute honesty. Honesty about our sin. Honesty about our shortcomings. Honesty about our “performance problems.” As Christians, Paul says, we are to address these things head on rather than trying to shirk responsibility for them and talking our way out of them.
One of the things that Paul exhorts us to do when talking frankly and forthrightly about our “performance problems” is not to use “deception.” The Greek word for “deception” is panourgia and is often translated as “trickery” or “craftiness.” Sadly, this is the way many of us deal with our sin. We trick ourselves into thinking that it’s not that bad. We are crafty in the way that we confess our sins, strategically leaving out bits and pieces of information, so that we don’t sound too depraved. But this is not the way of the gospel. Panourgia concerning our sinfulness just won’t do. For this kind of “trickery” and “craftiness” is none other than a disgusting device of the devil. “I am afraid,” Paul writes later in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” The Greek word for the “cunningness” of the serpent? Panourgia.
“By setting forth the truth plainly…” This is the only way for a Christian to live. Not cloaked in secrecy. Not veiled in shame. We are to live in the plain light of truth. But remember, the plain light of truth tells not only of our sin, the plain light of truth also tells of God’s grace. That’s why John reminds us that Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Grace and truth go together, John says. You can never tell the plain truth of your sinfulness without also hearing the plain truth of God’s grace, love, mercy, and compassion for you in Jesus Christ. Grace and truth go together.
So here is your challenge. Is there any area in your life where you are practicing some panourgia with your sinfulness? Are you hiding your “performance problems” from the plain light of truth? Now is the time to expose them. Now is the time to get honest about them. And now is the time to receive the plain truth of God’s grace. It’s yours for the asking. It’s yours for forgiveness.