At times it seems every event in life may be addressed with one question: “What are he/she/they up to?” Our society and culture generates such skepticism. On the whole, many people are convinced that everyone is “after something.” Years ago when expense accounts were common, it frequently was said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” The common, persistent attitude/concern was generated, “What is he after?” “What does she want?” “What are they up to?” The conviction prevails: “There is a bad, self-seeking, exploitive motive for every occurrence.” Consequently, it is automatically assumed (1) a bad motive is behind all deeds, and (2) the real reason behind happenings is a bad reason.

Unfortunately, Christians allow that attitude to explain much that happens among ourselves. If “I” do it, “my” reason is noble. However, if “you” do it, “you” are up to something. This attitude too often is adopted by Christians for numerous reasons. (1) There are con artists that use religion to work their cons. (2) Often people have “hidden agendas.” (3) Spiritual maturity is a demanding (often disturbing) journey—it is a journey, not a destination. (4) Maturing requires growth, and growth produces change. (5) Forming "emotional attachments" frequently attacks understanding. (6) It is hard to accept previously unknown information.

The pursuit of God’s will is a humbling, demanding challenge. The human finite mind will never fully comprehend the infinite God. That reality is distressing! The more we understand God, the more we are challenged. The more we are challenged, the more we grow. The more we grow, the more we confront the need to develop. As we spiritually develop, changes produced by improved understandings are certain.

As a result, the question, “What are they up to?” is horribly inadequate. Quite frequently, all that "they" are "up to" is allowing God’s will to transform them. That dedication often leads Christians to what other Christians declare to be the unthinkable.

Consider a first century example. Commonly, devout Jews did not approve of idol-worshipping Gentiles becoming 100% children in God’s family without converting to Judaism first. This disapproval was a major problem in the early church. Even Jewish Christians said, “Gentiles (1) have the wrong ancestry; (2) are not covenant people; and (3) come from the wrong moral/ethical background!” Justice is done to their concerns with these statements: “God would not do that! God does not think that way! God is upset! We demand things be done our way!”

Yet, it was God’s intent to bring all people to Him through Jesus Christ. While that is a common understanding to most of us, it was a radical, unthinkable, preposterous suggestion to first century Israel who were "the people who belong to God" for almost 1500 years. They were certain they understood God’s thinking, but they did not. May we accept the challenge to pursue God’s agenda and never call God’s values preposterous.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 27 January 2005

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