December 10, 2009

Don’t judge anyone, even myself

The fitness tests to enter the ranks of our city police are challenging. Friends have passed the test, but they questioned its value. I do too. Getting into the force is one thing, but what about the need to stay fit afterwards? Can a veteran police officer still leap buildings at a single bound? Some of those blue uniforms seem overstuffed.

We had a policeman help us move some furniture. A smaller, less muscular neighbor had little problem, but he had to stop for frequent rests. The requirements to get into the force do not seem to be maintained to stay in the force.

Today’s devotional verse also makes me pause. Jesus says, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33)

At the moment of conversion, I’m supposing that many Christians felt that way about forsaking all. This is not a painful decision for the wonder of knowing and following Jesus Christ is worth it. We are forgiven. God loves us. We can conquer anything.

Jesus also said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). This attitude of forsaking all is supposed to be a daily relinquishing of self, a constant attitude of heart with a follow-through in action. It is about not caring if I live or die as long as the will of God is done in my life. It was here at conversion. Is it still here?

My reading says that this attitude is practically unheard of in our materialistic, self-centered society. I agree. Most people today live for everything except the will of God. Sometimes Christians start out with a heartfelt willingness to forsake all then seem to slide gradually into a lesser commitment.

What happens? What happens to the policeman who trains for weeks to pass the test yet winds ups with a bread basket and becomes unlikely to outrun a robber? Too many donuts according to most cartoonists, but is that it? And what happens to Christians who once were filled with zeal for God and later find themselves more interested in doing their own thing?

I know the temptations of turning from all-out commitment to “wait a minute.” The energy of youth, and a zeal for changing the world both falter — one with age and the other with increased disappointment. Someone suggested that following Jesus would be easier with age, but I do not agree. The tests and trials become more challenging. The resources of youth and even health began to fade. The temptations to quit become stronger.

I’m thinking that part of the problem is that my former energy and zeal do not cut it and maybe I had been relying on them too much. Part of it is also realizing that the will of God is not as simple a matter as I once thought. My zeal isn’t always the same as His will.

At first, I met those tests to commitment with a youthful verve that could “handle anything” but now, my response must be different. I don’t have the same energy. What do I need to replace it? The Bible says that God is true and gives strength to the weak. The disciples said that they had no one else to go to but Jesus. Maturity discovers these things, or at least it should.

It takes more than physical strength to be a good policeman. Years of experience make up for some of that increased flab. A lesser sense of excitement and power is compensated for by steadfast wisdom and good judgment. The experiences of being “on the job” have great value over the high of an emotional commitment, for them and for God’s people too.

During the past week, I’ve noticed changes in the way that I think. At first I wondered if I’d lost something in the ups and downs of battling temptation and the trials of life. Then I thought of something the apostle Paul wrote:

Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.  (1 Corinthians 4:1-5)
Any evaluation of a policeman by his waistline is apt to be flawed and is certainly narrow-minded. In the same way, I am apt to also misread my own test results. Some things are better left with God.


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