We love to complain. We want to complain about service being too slow at a restaurant; about the food being too hot or too cold; about seeing the bottom of our coffee cups; about the loudness of the radio. We complain about the person who cut us off in traffic; about construction; about light timings; about people in the wrong lanes. We complain about politics; about the “liberal media;” about so-and-so’s policies that we disagree with (unless our favorite party does the same thing); about taxes. We complain about the people in line at the grocery store; about the slow clerk who has an accent; about the register ringing up the wrong price; about the bagger putting the eggs in the wrong bag. We complain, and we complain, and we complain.
At times it seems the only people with which we show any patience for error are ourselves. Consider, however, this ministry advice from Peter:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
– I Peter 3:14-16
Many of us are proficient at being ready to “give an answer,” but we are less likely to do so in gentleness and respect. It’s even less likely that those around us would know that we have any sort of hope to share. Why? Simply because we live as if hopeless. We allow negativity to rule our lives in the place of a hope in Christ. In this, we make ourselves no different from the world. Why would someone ask me about the hope within me if all they see are my complaints about secular issues.
I’ve joked that my wife should write a self-help book entitles So What? because that tends to be her response to many issues and complaints that can tear one away from living in hope.
- That light only let five cars through! So what?
- I’m going to be late for this appointment! So what?
- That TV show has an agenda I disagree with! So what?
- This politician is doing something I don’t like! So what?
- My coffee is cold! So what?
- That cashier at McDonald’s doesn’t speak English! So what?
“So what?” indeed. So what if the worst dystopian nightmares of some political pundits come true? So what if this restaurant gives me the worst service of my life? So what if the clerk checking out my groceries doesn’t speak a lick of English? Does any of that change my relationship with Christ? Does any of that come between me and His salvation? Does any of that negate my responsibilities as a child of God? Is a man’s soul worth less to God because he speaks a different language than me?
Remember the words of Paul:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
– Philippians 4:8
Is it honorable to ruin someone’s day over a petty grievance? Is it commendable to treat someone unkindly because of the language they speak? Are political arguments and mudslinging worthy of praise? Is road rage a form of excellence? Of course they are not, but too many of us have set up a god of negativity in our hearts. We dwell on everything we see as wrong with the world and stifle our light as a consequence. We have replaced the Prince of Peace with a golden calf of contention and misery. It’s time we simply let some things go, purging the idol of negativity from our hearts, and concentrate on the things above (Colossians 3:2). Then, others might see an opportunity to ask us about the hope within us.