Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.
Fool me three times, shame on both of us.
I've heard it said and [let's be honest] I have felt the same. I'll give you some wiggle room. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but once there is a pattern set, a pattern of manipulation, deception, back biting, drama... well, I might as well have branded you with a Puritanical Scarlett Letter. Yet, when I'm the culprit, when I'm the one that manipulates, I describe it as being an "influencer." When I deceive, it just "slipped my mind" or when I am the one that causes drama, it is because something just needs to be done.
Isn't that disgusting.
I hate it in others, but I rationalize it in my life. Yes, I should have the same standard of grace for others that I desire for myself.
I know. I can imagine the look on your face and what you're thinking right now, "Wait. You're going to go there?"
"I wish we could be more like the early church!"
Usually, when those words are spoken, there is an unholy angst. Someone takes the early chapters of the book of Acts in contrast with the Western horizon of evangelicalism, realizing that things are a bit different. As the chapters of Acts continue, however, you get into some crazy stuff - take Acts 6 for example. A couple wants the church to believe they're awesome, meanwhile they lie to the Holy Spirit, operating for selfish gain. As you keep turning the pages [if you read it like you don't know the end] you see racism, self-righteousness, and legalism threatening the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Turn further still and you can see what happens when the gospel is planted in an over-sexed, power hungry, win at all cost culture. Spoiler alert - God is sovereign from the beginning of Acts to the continuation of Acts in the lives of the kingdom of God today.
Paul planted the gospel in Corinth. He left. Others stayed and cultivated the church. Then, things got crazy. They were arguing. They were back biting. They were saying that one leader was better than the other. They were gloating, boasting in who baptized them. They were getting drunk on the wine from the Lord's Table. They were allowing gross immorality to go unchecked in their midst, almost boasting in it.
In a section of the book, after Paul has taken them to the mat with some gospel-driven rebuke, Paul starts talking about serving one another, the body, with spiritual gifts. If you have time, I'd encourage you to dig into chapter 12-14. As in other sections of the book, Paul takes them to the mat for the way that they're abusing spiritual gifts. Now, if you've ever been to a wedding, you've probably heard the famous love chapter. Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians has been used all over the place. While it is beautiful to speak that to your significant other or to one day dream of your one day spouse saying that over you, it isn't really about a husband and wife! [MIND BLOWN] Yes, it is about the way we live in community with one another, the way that we serve one another with those spiritual gifts from chapter 12.
Jump from the context of 1 Corinthians to your church or ministry context. Your church body-the people you serve amongst, the group with which you're growing, the family of believers that has some babies all the way to some grandmas and grandpas in the mix. The boomers, busters, millennials, and generation z all together in one body. The old guard, new guard, and those that aren't even in the guard yet together. Think of that person that God has sovereignly placed in your life to cause you to walk in humility. It is there, with these people, that these words apply:
Love is patient and kind;
love does not envy or boast;
it is not arrogant
It does not insist on its own way;
it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong doing,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Friends, full disclosure - I am a pessimist. The first quote - "Fool me once..." well, as I've already shared my sinful response above. I typically operate that the world is out to get me. "I'll prove them wrong!" or "I'll show them!" can be harnessed for good, but it usually means that I am automatically on the defensive. I've got something to prove. Within the legal system in the US, it is innocent until proven guilty. Yet, with karma, it is most likely guilty until proven innocent. With Jesus, however, the standard far surpasses. The standard of God's love for us in Christ Jesus far surpasses. As He stands as the Head of the body, we are to operate in love with one another. As we consider God's great love for us while we were yet sinners, it should become the lenses with which we look at others around us. Yes, the Spirit has been whispering, massaging, and graciously pointing this out to my soul.
The thing that I've been chewing on for the past two months is that phrase in there, "Love believes all things!" In other words, love believes the best. Love, because of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, gives the benefit of the doubt. It does not operate from the fool me once, karma-esque frame of mind. Now, I'm not saying that we don't hold people accountable [that is body life too], but what I am learning to live in light of is, well, it is the gospel. It really is the essence of the gospel. That God pursued us in Jesus, not taking into account wrongs and sins against us, but rather allowing His son to bear them. We've been talking about this concept repeatedly at Precept Ministries. I've had conversation after conversation, usually I'm reminding someone of the principle of love believing the best, but more often someone is reminding me of it [point out that I'm operating with a karma, eye for an eye mentality.] May the person of Jesus gently pursue your heart through the Spirit, word, and community as He has done for me.
Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.Fool me three times, shame on both of us. BUT--JESUS!
Love believes the best.
Father, by your Spirit and because of Jesus, would you allow us to walk this out in my relationships! Because of Jesus, believe the best.
Question: What are your thoughts on the phrase, "Love believes the best?"