Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. - Ephesians 4:21-5:2
When I am with close friends, I usually don’t have to filter what I am going to say or plan how to say it. Even so, the people I know the best also have sensitive issues or areas in which I choose to be more careful with what I say and how I say it. There are times when I do not behave the way I should simply because I am comfortable. I’ve hurt other people because of that. So when I am more aware of those around me and thinking less of myself, I filter my conversations and actions.
In ministry, this is something that I refer to as being “on.” Other professions and other people experience similar things. For some people, being on means that they hide their true thoughts, their real feelings, who they really are. For the past few decades this kind of attitude and approach to life has led many a hurt individual to desire and expect authenticity from others, especially leaders. But this is not what I mean when I think of being on. I make every effort to be genuine, authentic, and consistent in every area of my life all the time. I try to be the same person when I write as I am when I preach as I am when I am at home with my family. This doesn’t mean that I’m always as well behaved in private as I am in public, but that I am honest in public about my private choices, failures, and weaknesses. (I don’t do this completely as there are still parts of my life that I hide, areas that I am ashamed of.)
So what does it mean to be “on?”
Recently I was approached by an active member in the congregation that I serve who told me that they were hurt, as was a friend of theirs, by my inaction or failure to strike up a conversation with the friend. First I must say that this member approached me very well (at a good time, in the right way, and with the right attitude). I listened. I asked clarifying questions. I asked for help. I committed to working on my end toward connecting.
It means that I produce smiles when I don’t have the energy to smile, or sympathy for their situation when I just feel like wallowing in self-pity… or when I don’t feel much of anything. It means actively listening (hearing, waiting, thinking, clarifying, probing) when I just want to spew my solutions or my own ideas. Sometimes it means keeping my mouth shut altogether, especially when I want to make excuses. It means praying for others, not about them. It means confronting others instead of letting the problems work themselves out. It means talking with anybody and everybody instead of sitting in my own little introspective world.
All of this is not to show others that I am perfect, that I am somebody I am not. Not to show them that I have it all together or that I know all the answers. I do this to love others as Christ has loved me, with genuine devotion and preference in honor. I do this to help when people are in need and to be hospitable at all times. I do this to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. And when somebody comes against me, hurts me, or even hates me? I do these things so that I can be a blessing to them, do good to and for them. I do this so that I can live in peace with everyone. None of this is easy for me. I have to work at it. Very hard.
This continued hard work is draining on me. My temptation is to seek out moments when I can live unfiltered, where I can say what I want, when I want, how I want. Where I don’t have to constantly evaluate my interactions and my relationships. I am tempted, but I don’t want that. When I am able to live unfiltered, I want it to be because Christ has so transformed my life that others see Him in me. Until then, He is my filter.