The Importance of Being Earnest
sin•cere adjective: free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings. synonyms: heartfelt, wholehearted, profound, deep, frank, candid, honest, upfront, open, guileless, straight, earnest.
I am, if not anything, sincere. You could say it has been my intentional ambition in life. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment in time or occurrence that made me despise insincerity. Perhaps it is because I most associate it with hypocrisy. It has even been said that I can lack some of the “social graces” which are so commonly particular in the friendly state in which I live.
I put on a show for no one; I am who I am, the good, the bad, and the ugly. As I mature and grow, the good in me gets is a little bigger, and the hopes are that it serves as a testimony of the growing grace of God in my heart. He changes me from the inside, out. I don’t pretend to be more spiritual or more religious than I am. And this past Sunday during church service, our pastor was teaching on 1 Timothy 1. He of course came to verse 5, which I love:
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)
An author of a commentary I refer to often puts it this way:
a. The aim of our charge: The purpose of the law is found in its inward work upon the heart, not in mere outward observance. Without this understanding, it is easy to become shallow legalists, who are only concerned with how things look on the outside.
b. Love from a pure heart: This suggests the idea that the problem in Ephesus was along Jewish-type legalistic lines. They misunderstood the commandment and the law.
i. If spending time in God’s word isn’t producing love from a pure heart, a good conscience, or sincere faith in us, something is wrong. Legalism may make us twist God’s word, so that instead of showing love we are harsh and judgmental; instead of having a good conscience we always feel condemned knowing we don’t measure up; and instead of sincere faith we practically trust in our own ability to please God.
On a different but somehow related note, these thoughts led me to think of The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed in 1895 at the St. James’s Theatre in London, it is a ludicrous comedy in which the protagonists’ maintain a fictitious persona in order to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play’s major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways.
Contemporary reviews all praised the play’s humor, though some were cautious about its explicit lack of social messages; while others foresaw the modern consensus that it was the culmination of Wilde’s artistic career so far. Its mockery and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde’s most endearingly popular play. (I would also recommend watching the movie produced in 2002 which stars Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O’Connor, and Reese Witherspoon.)
You can never be overdressed or over educated. (Oscar Wilde)
So I will leave you with a challenge, dear reader, to seek earnest sincerity in your character. And ultimately, may our aim be to become more sincere in our love for God and also our love for others.