A word to the Wise

What do you mean I’m being defensive?
By: Tom Rupp
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Have you ever thought about the behavior we use called “being defensive?” It’s “a coping style characterized by an orientation away from threatening information and a denial or minimization of distress and negative emotions.” That’s the textbook definition but, like so many textbook definitions, it seems to destroy it in defining it. Perhaps a better way to understand defensiveness is to follow someone who exhibits it, or even better, pay attention to your own life. It is something we all do in measure. This month in Sunday School we are studying the Old Testament prophet Malachi. In it the prophetic message challenges God’s people with several questions concerning their sins. After each question the people respond, “How are we doing this?” or “In what way is this so?” They are being defensive. They are being normal, human, sinful. In reading this book we see our own tendency to deflect, to deny. When I was a boy no one had to teach me how to lie. There was no class in school that went over the finer points of deception. It comes naturally to us all. Throughout Malachi God continues to question His people, a sure sign that he is not giving up on them. It is also a sure sign that he is not letting them off of the hook. His unconditional love must be answered with unconditional transparency. Hebrews 4:13 says “all things are open before God’s eyes” which then leads to the encouragement in verse 16 to “come boldly to the throne of God to find mercy and grace to help in time of need.” In His presence my defenses melt. Something else we all picked up easily was the concept of shame. God does not deal in shame. People might, but that’s because they are not like God. The church is known for various types of “holy furniture.” I propose that one of the most meaningful pieces of furniture a church could display is … a mirror. Tom Rupp lives in Folsom and can be reached at truppfolsom@