January 23, 2010

To Live is Christ — requires stooping

I’m antsy about today. We are meeting relatives at an event, then eating dinner with them. One of them has an attitude that is like a few other people I know and I struggle with my response to that attitude.

This person is not a Christian but thinks she is. Her faith is based on her “good works” and she is very sure of herself. While I know that salvation is by grace through faith and not about good works (Ephesians 2:8-9), when I am with people who think like she does, I feel like I have to prove something.

Today’s Scripture is the same as yesterday, but speaks to me in a different way. I read it in several versions and this one speaks to my concerns today . . .  

Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. (Galatians 6:2, The Message)
This verse reminds me that spending quality time with this person is not about me. I need not “look good” but instead do good. The only way to do that is by not allowing her attitude to produce the urge to get on my high horse. Instead, I need to stoop.

Personal pride is never a help to anyone. If her pride makes me feel like I have to prove myself, how then will my pride affect her and others? Humility is a choice, and pride needs to be confessed. I have to admit that I want to look good. That little word “stoop” is a good kick to my inflated ego.

I also need to remember that this person, and others like her, have been oppressed. They may not know it, but they are carrying the heavy burden of trying to establish their own righteousness. This cannot be done. If I feel antsy about trying to establish myself, and I have Jesus Christ to be my righteousness, how does a person feel who has no support from God? Perhaps God is trying to show me through my own anxiety how she feels on the inside — behind that bold external appearance?

Instead of making this a competition, the law of Christ is based upon love, grace, and mercy. It is not about me, but it does require me to be there for those who are too confused or even too full of themselves to follow Christ. I know this is the right way, but just thinking about it makes me fear that I cannot do this. I don’t know how and need help. I need to stoop.

By God’s providence, my annual practice of reading through the Bible took me to this passage this morning. I hear the Lord saying the same things to me as He said to Moses. This is my paraphrase . . .  

Then Elsie said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bear her burden.’ But You have not let me know if the Spirit will go with me. You have said that You know me by name, and that I have also found grace in Your sight. Therefore, I pray if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. . . .”
 And the Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. . . . I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:12–17)
For me, today to live is Christ means forgetting about what I feel like around a self-righteous person. It also means remembering that she is bearing a burden that is too heavy for any human being. She may not admit it or want it lifted, but that is not my responsibility. I first need to understand that hidden under that pompous attitude, she is carrying a burden — and I can carry that burden to the Lord in prayer for her.

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