I confess that I am often a skeptical Christian. Sometimes I see people “accept Christ into their heart” or make a public profession of faith, and I doubt their sincerity. Sometimes I hear young children say that they just became a Christian and I feel hesitant to celebrate their new found salvation. Did they really understand? Sometimes I mentally prepare for the worst long term outcomes, thinking to myself: "Come back next year, and we will see if you really meant it."
This may be due to the fact that I have seen many kids “profess faith” only to fall away later. I have clapped my hands when people were baptized, only to later see them leave the church and make a mess of their life. Is it not merited that we should all have a bit of skeptical caution before we celebrate quick professions and sudden heart change?
In my doubts and cynicism, I think of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:6, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
Wait, what was that? “Love…always hopes.”
Doubting is what the world does best. They say: "shame me once, shame on you; shame me twice, shame on me." The world holds grudges and takes revenge. They do not know grace nor have they tasted boundless forgiveness. Why would they expect the best of people? Why would they take others at their word regardless of what they have done in the past? To such people it would be foolishness, and reasonably so! In a broken world "hoping" is taxing work that more often than not ends up backfiring.
Yet God does not work like the world. The world says, "Prove to me that you are good enough;" God says, "You are not good enough, but I died that you would become good enough." The world says, "People never change;" God says, "I change people all the time." The world says, "Do better and I will love you." God says, "I love you already." Worldly reason doubts; God's love hopes.
God does not wait for us to get to a point where we are "redeemable." While we were yet sinners Christ died. While we were enemies of Him, He died on our behalf. What does that mean? It means that God does not see us as the black-hearted, rebellious sinners we are. He sees us as the glorious reflections of Him that we will one day become at the resurrection; looking at us not where we are now, but where we will end up.
Do we dare to look at people with God’s eyes? We are at a disadvantage as we lack His eternal vantage point that sees and determines all outcomes. Should we then dare to simplistically hope when someone announces God’s work in their life?
Instead of viewing people through the lens of the world, I think that Christians should have an “optimistic gullibility” about them. I do not mean that we should thrust new believers into leadership positions; nor do I mean that we are not to observe the fruit on the tree. I mean that we are to have a “gullibility” that looks at recent converts with joy and celebration; that sees the mustard see of faith in a small child and “always hopes.” Instead of coldly doubting any positive gesture, we should respond with hope that assumes the best. When we consider the love that we have given and that heart of our Father, how can we not?
If God can miraculously save people like us, there is no reason to doubt God's ability to do that same work in a sinner just like us. Yes, there may be times when people are insincere. Yes, there will be times when the seed does not take root, and we will be disappointed. Love by its very definition will bring pain, but that should not matter.
Since we have tasted of immeasurable grace, we need to learn to be liberal in our love and our hope with others--Yes, even if it is gullible. It is God who is doing the work after all, and He always finishes what He starts.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."