George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Doing Things Happily
Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles--1Pe 2:12
That word conversation, as we all know, has a different meaning on our lips from that which it bears in Holy Scripture. Words are like men and have their history, and sometimes the history leads upward and sometimes it moves down to lower things. Conversation on our lips just means talk; in the Bible it means the life behind the talk; the general course and tenor of the life, the way that a man has of doing things. Then the word honest, while including honesty, has suggestions that honesty does not convey. It is not the Greek equivalent for honest; it is the Greek word for beautiful. And so an old Scottish saint and scholar who was always discovering charming things in Scripture used to say that what this text means is, Do things bonnily or in our vernacular, it is not enough just to do things if you are seeking to commend the Lord. You may do the right things in the wrong way. You may do them in a way that causes pain. The mark of the follower of the Lord Jesus is that whatever he has to do in life, like his Lord, he tries to do it attractively.
Christ Wants Things Done Beautifully
That our Lord expected this of His disciples is seen clearly in the Gospel story. For instance, think of what He said of fasting. When hypocrites fast, said the Lord, they do it in an ugly way. Not only do they obtrude their sadness, they make a practice of disfiguring their faces. And the word for disfigure in the Greek is a very interesting word; it means to dim the luster so that the beauty vanishes away. A fasting hypocrite was not a pleasant sight, and he did not want to be a pleasant sight. He wanted men to know that he was fasting, and he conveyed the information by his ugliness just as hypocrites to this hour try to show they are "fasting from the world" by deliberate rejection of the beautiful. Now Jesus, for all His geniality, knew the moral necessity for fasting. He knew that for natures such as ours occasional fasting is imperative. His aim was not to discourage fasting; He took it for granted that His own would fast; His aim, here and everywhere, was to discourage ugly ways of doing it. When thou fastest, He says, anoint thy head, give thyself the oil of joy for mourning. Wash off the disfigurement of sadness so that nobody would dream that you were fasting. In other words, what the Lord says is this, "Child, with the seven devils in you, fast; but see to it that you always do it pleasantly." The same thing applies to prayer. The same thing applies to alms-giving. How much almsgiving is robbed of grace because of the ugly fashion of its exercise? No right thing is perfect in the Lord's eyes however unassailable its rightness, unless it is also beautifully done.
Full of Grace and Truth
This is what profoundly impressed men in the life and walk of our Lord Himself. "We beheld his glory," says the great apostle, "full of grace and truth." Now grace, whatever else it may be, is charm. It may be more; it never can be less. Grace is something exquisitely beautiful whether on the lips or in the life. And what moved men who had companied with Jesus, and what filled them with adoring wonder, was that always and in every circumstance they had found Him full of grace and truth. There is a kind of truth that is not charming. It is harsh, uninviting, and repellent. It may be the very opposite of falsehood and yet the very antithesis of love. But the truth in Jesus was a charming thing; it had all the attractiveness of beauty; and men, remembering it, said, "We beheld his glory, full of grace and truth." All the truth He uttered, He uttered beautifully. Men wondered at the words of grace upon His lips. All the truth He did, He did beautifully. He was the truth--yet "altogether lovely." And so Peter, writing to these early Christians, says, "Friends, do you want to exhibit Christ among the pagans? Then whatever you do, be sure you do it beautifully."
Beauty Seen in Every Stage of Christ
One might illustrate that from every stage of Christ's life. Just think for a moment of the foot-washing. It is John who tells us of the foot-washing; it is Luke who interprets its significance. Luke tells us that on the way up to the capital the disciples had been quarrelling about precedence. They had been arguing their respective claims to greatness, and doing it with heat. Could you have wondered if their Master, angry, had scorched and shrivelled them with truth? But you see He was full of grace and truth. He took a towel. He girded Himself. He poured the water into the basin. Probably without one word, He stooped down and began to wash their feet. And when there flashed on them the truth about themselves, and with it the truth about their Lord, did they not feel He was altogether lovely? He might have healed the leper with a word--instead of that He touched him. When He brought Jairus daughter back from death, He commanded that something be given her to eat. What a beautiful touch; and Peter saw it, and seeing it never could forget it; and so he writes, "Do you want to show forth Christ among the pagans? See to it, then, that you always do things beautifully."
That, then, we must always set before us if we really want to commend our blessed Savior. The right things are not wholly right in His eyes--unless they are also beautifully done. It is a great thing to give alms. It is a great thing to take one's cross up daily. It is a great thing to be a faithful wife or husband. It is a great thing to help a brother. But "what do ye more than others?" Well, there is one thing more that you can do. For the Lord's sake you can always do things beautifully.
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