This is a note to my friends who follow Jesus. I have had so much on my heart lately that I haven't even known what to say, how to speak, how much to share, how much not to share. It's a weird season for someone who loves communication! I think many of you are right there with me, though. This may take a few minutes, so do me a favor and pray before you read on and don't rush through it. Also, when you see a scripture, don't skip over it thinking you already know it (smile).
Friends, hear my heart when I ask you....
What if, in our desire to help "change the world", we are only making things worse?
What if what we are trying to do actually goes against God's perfect plan for us in such a time as this?
What if it's true that people don't change because someone else imposes morality on them, or because of rules or laws?
We already know from personal experience that people change when hearts change. And how can hearts change if the focus is always on the outward behavior? Galatians 2:21 says, "I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die." And yet, we focus only on the law when we try to change people from the outside, in.
Of course, my heart's desire would be if the laws of the land lined up with the laws of God! What a beautiful day it will be when that happens! Let's keep in mind though, that even WE cannot keep all those laws perfectly. We know that will not happen completely until Christ returns. In the meantime, I am concerned that our focus is more on law and behavior modification than it is our most important calling of all - to love God and love others. Jesus said in John 13:34, "So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other." Just as He loved us.
That means, in spite of sin. That means, in a broken and deceived
state. That means no matter what - unconditional love.
God knew that people would be most open to His ways and His gospel not through controversy, but through unity and love. He tells us in 1 Timothy 2:8, "In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy." 2 Timothy 2:23-24 reminds us, "Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people."
Remember in Romans 2:4? That verse says, "Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?" Are we being kind or are we being condescending? Are we tolerating others or demanding that they change and be more like us? Are we patiently praying for and trusting God for their salvation? Are we pointing fingers at others but ignoring the thing that matters most? By the way, the thing that matters most? Love.
Personally, I'm too aware of my own sin to throw judgment on anyone (Matthew 7:2 makes it clear that the judgment I give to others is the measuring stick that I am judged by...no thanks). Even Jesus didn't come to judge, but He came to save the world from their sin. (John 3:17) That includes me and you.
However, as children of God who have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we now have God's Spirit, which gives us the ability and desire to obey His Word. Ezekiel 36:26-27 says, "And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations."
Don't miss this: He put His Spirit in us so that we can follow His decrees and be careful to obey His regulations. That means, before this happened, we were unable to do this. People who have not accepted Christ are literally incapable of obeying God's laws that we want to impose on them. It's almost like we are trying to get them to obey our Father, but they don't live in our household. It's crazy to think that when we focus on something they cannot understand or accept, that we could change their hearts. No, only He can change a heart.
Billy Graham said it best when he said,
"It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict, God's job to judge and my job to love."
Galatians 2:16 says, "We know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Jesus Christ, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For not one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law." No, actually, people are made right with God and then (and only then) are capable of obeying the law. (On a side note - take a few moments to read all of Galatians 2 if you can - woo baby!!)
Oh, my friends. I am not saying that we lay down and accept things the way they are. I am
saying just the opposite. But what if getting up and doing something looks different that we thought? What if doing something means we stop being so angry about what is going on around us and started taking inventory of our own hearts? Are we loving people or shoving people? Are we listening or do we just want them to shut up and hear us? Are we showing God's kindness in our lives?
What if, in the pursuit of holiness and justice, we realized that our hearts are in desperate need of healing, too?
What if, instead of arguing and shouting, we remember that nobody is ultimately accountable to us, but to God.
What if, even though we really thought we were right about something, we realized in humility and admitted that we could be wrong?
How can we show others His kindness today so that when that day inevitably comes for them, they will hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."?
So what now?!
Here are some practical, Biblical things we can do to show God's kindness and love to others. Once you read through them, if you have any other scriptures you want to share in the comments, please do!
Colossians 3:12-15 "Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in perfect peace. And always be thankful."
Colossians 4:5-6 "Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive, so that you will have the right response for everyone."
1 Peter 3:13-17 "Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead,
you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about
your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will
be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong
to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!"