Just an hour ago, I sat on our back porch as I watched my youngest jump happily on the trampoline. After a string of oppressively hot and humid days the likes of which are all too common during our Central Texas summers, a northerly breeze and low humidity ushered in a rare, “almost cool” June day. While watching her laugh and giggle and carry on an endless string of one sided conversation, completely oblivious to all the serious goings on of the outside world, I thought to myself, “What a perfectly beautiful and peaceful afternoon.”
At the same time, I was keenly aware of the dichotomy in that moment. There I sat, in my peaceful, safe haven of a backyard and realized how at odds it seemed with the current state of our community, our nation, and our world. Our world that after months of stress and stay at home orders, amid the coronavirus pandemic, seemed to have emerged into utter chaos. Tensions and anxiety and anger are beyond high on so many levels. Heartbreak and grief, that begin on a very personal level in my own life (hence the silence as of late) but extend outward encompassing person after person and family after family in our community, seem all too common. Just this morning, I awoke to news of yet another senseless and horrific tragedy coming out of my hometown.
It’s almost impossible to ignore the dichotomy, and I’ll go a step further and say, I do not want to. Instead I want to sit in it and look at everything that is happening . . . everything that is being said and done, and in that contrast seek God. I pray, and I ask God how can I take the peace I feel in that quiet moment on my back porch and extend it outward to others.
There are things that will only come with time and processing. Loss and grief must be processed and allowed to chart their course. There are other things that require me to look inward . . . at my own thoughts, my own ideas, my own motivations and ask myself over and over again, “Am I being the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth? Am I extending the love of Christ in every single action and every single word? From the stranger on the street to the people I see every single day?”
Because so much of the anger and hatred and ugliness, some of it blatant, a lot of it passive aggressive, I see isn’t coming from the unsaved and the unchurched but Christians. We are so busy screaming about our rights and insisting we are right that we fail to see the damage we are doing and the people we are pushing away. We have the right to do a lot of things . . . we have the right to our opinions, and we have the obligation to stand up for truth, but it should always be done in love. When the insistence of my rights comes at detriment of my witness and my service to others, I’ve completely missed the point. And just because I can does not mean I should. Sometimes, a lot of times, reaching others for Jesus means I’m not only going to be inconvenienced, but I’m going to have to sacrifice something.
Some of you might be asking yourself right now, “What in the blue blazes is she talking about?” I’ll admit I’m a little bit vague and all over the place, but if you want to know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about all of it. I’m talking about current events but even more so about pervasive attitudes and conditions of the heart that have become acceptable within the church while simultaneously doing huge harm to our witness to an unsaved world.
One of the most oft quoted passages of scripture is 1 Corinthians 13 . . .
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
It’s one of my favorites. It’s beautiful and brings about all the good feels, but the questions I have to ask myself over and over is, “Am I living it?” Because it isn’t just meant to be a pretty passage recited at weddings. It’s meant to be a way of life for Christ followers.
And then there’s this . . .
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:14-21
This one is an even harder pill to swallow . . . because you know what? It’s easy to love those who are like us. It’s not even that hard to love those who lead a different life and have different views, but that are nice to or at least tolerant of us. But put someone in our lives who pushes us, who persecutes us, who attacks us, and suddenly, it all goes out the window . . . I mean does God actually want us to do good to those who have done us harm?
I could ramble on forever . . . but this is already far too long, and the scriptures speak for themselves. As a follower of Christ, I refuse to live in an echo chamber where I only hear my own voice, my own hurts, and my own opinions. That doesn’t mean that I will agree with everything that is said or that comes at me. But what that does mean is I’ll take the time to seek God’s face and study His word (my ultimate basis for truth in every single issue and area) and look at my own heart and my own need to change some things. It means that I will strive to be more empathetic and compassionate. I’m a work in progress. We all are. I haven’t arrived or figured out how to solve all the problems of the world. Heck, I just yelled at my kids so obviously, I still have some work to do right here at home (so much for that peaceful backyard moment . . . ), but I know the one Who has arrived and Who does have it all figured out. And He is working on me. Because I do want to be more than a “clanging cymbal”.
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