I once met one of the men who played Bozo the clown. His face had the weirdest tint to it. Even though he was “out of character,” he had put the paint on his face so many times that it had actually stained his face. Who he had been acting like day in and day out had affected his actual visage. The Bible discourages hypocrisy but encourages growth. It encourages behaving like a Christian, even when it is tough. For some of us in certain situations this means we must react to things in ways we do not necessarily want to in order to do it correctly. Commands like loving and praying for enemies are not the most natural of responses.

The whole book of Philemon was written to encourage a man to respond in a way opposite of how he would naturally want to respond. Onesimus is a slave who has either run away or has been sent away. Paul has come in contact with him and subsequently converts him. The apostle feels it is best for these two men to reconcile, even when neither, under normal circumstances, probably would want to. It would be hard for the slave to return. It would be equally difficult for the slave owner to accept and trust. Paul could force Philemon to receive his lost slave correctly but instead, he appeals to him (vs. 8-9). He asked Philemon to consider handling his relationship correctly. Paul wanted Philemon to look at Onesimus not as a slave, but as a brother (vs. 16).

Not all relationships are easy. The circumstances are not always what we want them to be. Sometimes the best thing for us to do is treat people well even when we do not want to. Sometimes adjusting the way we look at people helps us understand more how God looks at us. If we desire to be stronger as Christians, we have to treat people better than our instincts direct. The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Eventually, forcing ourselves to behave correctly can mold who we are, and through handling situations right, it becomes an engrained part of our character. Just like the paint-stained face of the man who day in and day out transformed himself into something else, our concentrated efforts become a part of who we are. There is no hypocrisy in acting treating people right even when it is hard (Matthew 6:1-4)!

Today, I will…try to see people like God wants me to see them. I will do good to all, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).