A good guide for spotting bad people.

May those who love us, love us. And those who don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He cannot turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so that we may know them by their limping.

I first heard this quote in one of my favourite movies, ‘Keeping the faith’. A young priest, committed to his vows has (despite his better judgement) fallen for a fun, fast-living, hard-nosed former school friend.  One night, miserable in his confusion/love/torment, he gets blindingly drunk, falls into a bar and gets chatting to a very wise/philosophical bartender who delivers this piece of timely wisdom.

Since then, I’ve often thought how handy it would be, if all the people with poor character could be easily identified, before they wreaked havoc with our lives.  If the prospective (crooked) business partner wobbled when they walked? If the person who’d break your heart was identified early with a wonky gait?  Imagine how much pain and drama we would avoid, if people came with descriptive tags attached, scribbled with the state of their hearts and true motivations?

I was reading Matthew 7 the other day, specifically the few verses on fruit (the figurative kind) which seems to offer a guide on what a true believer looks like.

You’ll know them by their fruits. You can’t gather grapes from thistles. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree can’t bear good fruit.

But what does ‘good fruit’ look like?

The Message version of Galatians 5 has a pretty good list;

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.

The NIV provides another ‘guide to fruit;

Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Us humans, we tend to judge the quality of a person by how they look, what they drive, whether they make us laugh (and in relationships, whether they leave us with a fuzzy tingle), but God’s guide gets straight to the heart of the matter.   

What if, instead of looking at what car they drove, or if we fancied them, we started asking, is this a good person?  Are they kind?  Do they stick with things?  Are they in control? Are they at peace with themselves? Are they nice to fluffy kittens? (last one not in the Bible)

It isn’t a fool-proof system…we’re all human and we’re all capable of being deceived and tricked.  But looking at people the way God looks at them, gives us a head-start and stops us from looking at the wrong stuff. 

It’s unlikely (unfortunately…ha!) that God will turn the ankles of the unscrupulous, but He does give us a pretty good guide for early detection of the bad ‘uns.