Walled away from the beauty of Colorado’s striking blue skies and cool crisp air, Robert Hanssen ticks out the rest of his life in a supermax prison facility where he is serving 15 consecutive life sentences. If you’re like most Americans, you are not familiar with his name, but he is hands down one of the most damaging moles in American history. On the outside, he looked wholesome, clean, and all-American. He earned multiple college degrees. He got married, and fathered a family of six children. Robert attended church and church organizations. He served as an FBI agent for decades, and later worked for the State Department. Between 1979 and 2001 he transferred nuclear secrets, strategic information, American counterintelligence activities, and untold numbers of documents to America’s then chief foreign enemy, the Soviet Union. At one point, he even attempted to recruit a friend of his, a Colonel in the U.S. Army, to join him in his efforts at espionage.
Because he grew up in America, looked American, acted American, and was involved in American life, he was mistaken by America to be genuine and loyal. Behind his FBI desk, he looked like every other FBI agent. In fact, he looked enough like a good FBI agent that he was given privilege, responsibility, and rank. Of course, his fruits eventually betrayed him, and as he grew more active with the soviets, those fruits became evident to the discerning people around him. Robert Hanssen looked loyal to the United States. But he wasn’t. His heart bore a loyalty to something else — perhaps the Soviet Union, or, more likely, to himself.
This is the danger of appearances. You can look as though you have the marks of a good servant, but if your heart isn’t really invested in service, then those marks are only superficial, and you only wear them on your sleeve as means of serving yourself. But if your heart finds itself truly burdened by a desire for service to the one true God, then you won’t be able to stop yourself from bearing those marks to the point of suffering. Those marks will be deeply inseparable from your identity, and will be evident in your consistent behaviors, most especially when service is needed in difficult, challenging, or mundane times.
It is during those times when a mature servant’s heart is revealed, and when the wheat can be separated from the tares (Matthew 13:24-30, Matthew 13:36-43).