Yes, sadly there are such things as grumpy old men. I suppose I am one of them – at least many folks might think so. Not that I want to be. As a Christian I want to be known for being Christlike – and that includes being gracious. But we all know of such folks: they are grumpy, argumentative, always picking a fight, never happy to just get along, and so on.
And they can include women as well as men. As one involved in internet discussion, debate and ministry, I see this all over the place: on my website, on the social media, and anywhere that public discussion occurs. There are always grumpy old men around.
Obviously it is one thing if you are not a Christian and a grumpy old man. But here I am specifically referring to those who claim to be Christians, but who are still prime examples of grumpy old men. There seems to be no pleasing them. They seem forever on the prowl, looking to argue about something and make a stink about something.
They lack grace. They do not know how to be gracious. They seem to dislike other people and maybe even life itself. Some of these folks you simply have to give a wide berth to – there is just no pleasing them. I encounter them too often, and as I say, I hope I am not included among their ranks – but I may be.
As mentioned, one of the opposites of grumpiness is grace. All this is really just basic Christianity 101, but something most of us need to keep learning and relearning. We need to keep working at this. Let me offer a rough outline here of how all it works:
The more who know about the one true God and who he really is (holy, just, righteous, pure, etc), the more we should be able to see ourselves for who we really are (unholy, unjust, unrighteous, impure, etc). Everything God is, we are not.
It is only by the grace and mercy of God that any of us are “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). We can never earn our salvation, or get right with God by our own efforts. It is all based on what God has done for us through Christ and his work at Calvary.
When we recognise how great and pure God is, how unworthy and sinful we are, but see that by his grace he brings us into his family, that should have one overriding effect: that should floor us, that should humble us, that should amaze us.
It should take away every bit of pride and arrogance and self-confidence and self-righteousness. When we see God and ourselves as we really are, all we can say is: ‘Wow, God, I am so undeserving of your mercy and grace, yet you shared it lavishly upon me. How can I not go and do likewise?’
‘How can I not be gracious to others? How can I not be overwhelmed by your amazing grace, and therefore seek to show grace to other people? How can I not be humbled before you, and show that humility to one another? How can I remain hard and arrogant and cocksure, given all that you have done for me?’
This is what grace is all about. It should humble us and put us in our place. It should so stagger us that we cannot help but want to be gracious to others. This is of course fully biblical. The story of the sinful woman who is forgiven as found in Luke 7:36-50 is a key passage here. Consider verses 41-44:
“There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The more grace, mercy and forgiveness you experience, the more you should be showing it to others. Every person who is a Christian has known an infinite amount of grace, mercy and forgiveness, yet we are so unwilling to pass this on to others.
It is the cross that is the great equaliser. It is the cross that humbles us – or should humble us. When we contemplate all that God has done for us at the cross, it should humble us all, drive us to our knees, and show our deep-seated pride and lack of love for others.
Yes, this is a lifelong process of sanctification and becoming more and more Christlike, but that is what should be happening to us all. So if you have been a believer for a long time, you should NOT be getting to be a grumpy old man, but a gracious old man.
We should be more humble, Christlike, gracious, and loving as we grow older. There really should be no grumpy old men and women in the Body of Christ. Let me finish this piece by running with some thoughts from a brand-new book I just bought.
Let me preface things by saying that although the book is written by a Calvinist, and mostly for other Calvinists, it really is generic enough that all Christians can learn from it. I refer to J. A. Medders’ Humble Calvinism (The Good Book Company, 2019).
Even though he looks at the so-called five points of Calvinism, one can greatly profit from this book regardless of the theological views you might have. Indeed, in most cases when he speaks of ‘Calvinist this or that,’ simply substitute the word ‘Christian’.
His point is that perhaps most Calvinists (or Christians) have not always been known for their humility and graciousness. So many have plenty of head knowledge but little heart knowledge. This should not be, argues Medders. He reminds us that those who love the doctrines of grace very seldom show real grace.
He writes, “We have not become more gracious, kind, tender, and compassionate. And that can only mean one thing: we actually don’t know the doctrines of grace.” He continues, “Calvinism in the head will puff you up. Calvinism in the heart will build others up.”
Again, substitute Arminianism, or Pentecostalism, or Catholicism here if you prefer. These truths apply to all who call themselves Christ-followers. But since Medders is indeed committed to this particular theological system, let me quote more of him, as he looks at how other Calvinists have dealt with this:
I heard a story about when the eighteenth-century preacher George Whitefield, a vibrant Calvinist, was asked if he thought he would see the founder of the Methodists and well-known Arminian, John Wesley, in heaven.
Whitefield’s answer? “No, I don’t think we will.”
Shocking, huh? But George wasn’t done yet. He wouldn’t see Wesley in heaven, he added, because, “Mr. Wesley will be so near the throne and I will be so far in the back that I will not be able to see him.”
Humble Calvinism. Heart Calvinism. One Lord. One Faith. United above the differences. The comments of the great Victorian preacher C.H. Spurgeon on this story of Whitefield and Wesley are insightful:
“As I read such remarks made by Mr. Whitefield, I have said to myself, ‘By this I know, as a Christian, that he must be a Christian’; for I saw that he loved his brother, Wesley even while he so earnestly differed from him on certain points of doctrine. Yes, dear brethren, if we cannot differ, and yet love one another – if we cannot allow each brother to go his own way in the service of God, and to have the liberty of working after his own fashion – if we cannot do that, we shall fail to convince our fellow-Christians that we, ourselves, are Christians.”
Love for one another, not Calvinism, is the way people know that we are disciples of the risen Nazarene. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13 v 35). While we can’t imitate the ministry, preaching, or smarts of Whitefield, all of us can imitate this style of Calvinism.
Spurgeon and Whitefield were not weak Calvinists. They were meek Calvinists. They didn’t belittle the doctrines of grace, and they refused to belittle the Body or beat up their brethren. I wish I could say I always did the same.
And a proper understanding of what Jesus meant in Matthew 7:1-6 goes a long way here. Of course we are to judge, but not hypocritically. Christians are forgiven sinners, but we all still have a long way to go in becoming like Christ. Again, the grace God has shown us is what we should be showing to others.
We all have issues we are still dealing with, so a bit of humility can go a long way. Says Medders:
Jesus called out this speck-spotting. And Calvinists tend to be really good at this. . . . It seems like Reformed sport these days to go sniffing for other people’s sins. We can identify people’s idols, talk about the sin beneath the sin, and point out legalism in others. Like bloodhounds, we can smell doctrinal error 130 miles away. We notice other people’s micro-splinters while looking past our own eye-timber with “Depravity” spray-painted on the side. But real Calvinism means we remember the lumber dangling from our eye sockets.
Again, being in the presence of God and being blown away by his incredible grace and patience with us should be extended to others. This does NOT mean we do not care about doctrinal purity and the like. Anyone who knows me or Medders knows we both value sound teaching very highly.
But we also need to value sound living very highly as well. And that includes not just talking about grace, but living a life of grace. When we show love and respect and forbearance and grace to others, we are reflecting just a little bit of what God has so richly lavished upon us.
As mentioned, I can be a grumpy old man. Yes, I do like Grumpy Cat (RIP), and I can enjoy sharing memes about her. One of my favs is this one: “I liked Titanic: My favourite character was the iceberg.” OK, one more: “I don’t like morning people: Or mornings, or people.” Hey, I can relate!
And I can identify with other such characters, such as Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, or the Marshwiggle in C. S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair who said: “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it”. I could blame a melancholic personality on this, but I don’t think God wants me to stay in that place.
He wants me to be so transformed because of the cross, that people will look at me and declare, “There goes a gracious old man”. And we all should have that as our desire and prayer. No more grumpy old men – or women. Let us keep soaking up the grace of God and let it transform us into gracious, loving, forgiving and forbearing saints.
Medders closes his book by again quoting from Spurgeon:
So do not give yourselves up to any system, and say, “I follow this doctor, or that.” John Wesley is not our master—that is Jesus Christ. John Calvin is not our Master—that is Jesus Christ. These men were great and good: they were worthy of the love of all the church of God. But we do not call them Teacher. We may follow the man as far as the man follows Christ, but not an inch farther. We must sit at Jesus’ feet: humble, teachable, and child-like.
(Australians can find this book at Koorong: https://www.koorong.com/search/product/humble-calvinism-and-if-i-know-the-five/9781784983727.jhtml )