There are a lot of things that I could point out in my life that need improvement. One thing in particular that I've allowed God to hone in on is in the area of of people skills. I praise God that I'm not the same person I was even a year ago. However I do struggle with being...mmm...nice? Aah! It's sounds so bad when you type it out and read it back to yourself. I really am a very nice, very cordial person. But my natural tendency is to get upset when people don't meet my expectations. (Aah! Again, it sounds bad typed out.) And Lord forbid that they should fall into some secret sin. If I'm not careful, my kindness turns into bitterness rather quickly. The thing is, I'm already a "black or white" kind of person as it is. And if people are Christians, my natural assumption is that they should "know better" than to fall into craziness. Here's two things that have really helped change my perspective.
1) I need forgiveness.
Sometimes I have this big brother syndrome. You know...the prodigal son's big brother. One of the many things that strikes me about this story is the lack of genuine love that the big brother had for the prodigal. While their dad was looking out for and expecting the return of his younger son, the bible doesn't record the older brother doing the same. There's a certain coldness about the older brother. It's almost like the older brother is finding security in the fact that he is still being "faithful" to his father while the younger brother squandered everything. Big brother's relationship with dad was based on his own works...and that in comparison to others. And if little brother should ever repent, big brother is less than happy. When I see this in myself I realize that I'm in need of forgiveness too. It's natural to think that the "good kids" will be loved by the Father more than the "bad kids". (After all...they went out from among us to prove that they were never really one of us right? Those who read their bibles know what I'm talking about.) God's love is supernatural and is not based on works. And that, friends, is a hard pill for big brothers to swallow. I want to be a big brother that has the heart to weep for the prodigal instead of judging them. I want the heart of God. So everytime I remember that this attitude still exists in me, I realize that we're all prodigals at heart. In some area of our lives we've strayed away from the living God to follow worthless "treasures". So since we're all in the same boat surely I can rely on the power of God to forgive others.
2) Maybe they don't know better
I've used this analogy a few times at Forerunner. Pretend that you have a child and you are trying to teach them "2+2=4". As you teach them, they begin to catch on. You ask them, "What is 2+2?" They respond, "4!" You're happy! Then you take them to the grocery store. You're walking down the canned goods isle and you need 4 cans of green beans. You tell Johnny, "Go get me some green beans." "How many?" "2+2", you reply. If Johnny comes back with 3 cans of green beans then he has NOT learned how to apply 2+2 which means that he really doesn't know what 2+2 equals. Combine that analogy with this scripture in Hebrews:
"..But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
There are people who really don't know better. They may have grown up in church. They may be able to quote scriptures, speak with other tongues, and know the text book answers to every biblical question you can imagine. But there's a problem. They're not applying what they know in their heads to be true. In the Hebrew culture, a person is not considered to have learned something unless they've applied it. So here's what I've done. I'm fighting hard not to say, "Wow, you've been in church for how long and you're doing what?? You say this and say that but you're doing what??" Instead I'm judging a tree by its fruit. Not by its leaves, not by where the tree is situated...by its fruit. And often times when I do this I find that people really just don't know. So then it becomes my responsibility to walk in grace with that person as so many others have done with me.
When you make the decision to become a fruit inspector there are some things you just can't get around. Like...eh...talking to people! (You can't just be a fruit inspector without genuinely caring for someone. Then it looks like you're just waiting for them to fall.) Community. Yes. The draining conversations, the invasion of personal space, and the vanishing of other precious commodities are all prices of genuine love and fellowship...and there's no getting around it. So I'm at a crossroads now. I'm starting to get those calls again. Yeah, the calls that I know are gonna be life-invasive calls. (Honestly, I feel like I'm still burned out by the last season of life-invasion.) Why can't I just tell people what they're doing wrong and be done with it! Why? Because the great commission wasn't "Go and correct the world in My name." It was to "teach them to observe everything that I have commanded you." Teach them to observe and to do it! So yeah there's correction. But what about after that? What happens if they actually repent? Will I be like Jonah at the top of the hill? Will I look down on Ninevah and eagerly awaiting the wrath of God to descend? Or will I welcome them with open arms as the Father of the prodigal son did?
This Thursday, my friend Jamie Jones will be guest blogging for me. she's gonna be talking about relationships. Can't wait! See you back here Thursday.