“Refined” to fans of Downton Abbey, set in post-Edwardian England, probably brings to mind images of reserved aristocrats with excruciatingly proper manners. However, these British knew the real meaning of the word has more to do with the process, than with merely the elegant manners and mannerisms which result.
Upper class children were not allowed to just grow up, they were reared and molded by a series of strict nannies and tutors, often using very severe means. I recently learned of the practice of putting sharp objects on the backs of dining chairs to instill the correct upright posture. The process of becoming refined was an ordeal designed to winnow out all crudeness, to separate these elites from the ordinary people.
In the grand old hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, we hear the words, “Love so amazing, so refined,” referring to Christ’s sacrifice. His love was so amazingly refined as to be only the purist, most miraculous love, diluted with nothing else. His entire experience as a mortal man, culminating on the cross, was his refining process and our example.
Being refined isn’t simply showing the correct mannerisms, it is a purity of purpose which motivates our actions and it requires going through a strenuous, often painful process.
The 45 recent church burnings in Nigeria and the response of the Christian pastors to this persecution is only one example of faith going through the refiner’s fire.
Christian churches around the world, right now, are being tested in the crucible of Islamic attacks. The testimonies of refined and strengthened faith coming out of these experiences are inspirational, but they also force me to wonder how I would fare if similar persecution were to come to my life.
Is my faith strong and pure enough to survive? Do I possess enough of Christ’s amazing love to carry me through?
Has your faith been refined in the testing fire?