December 23, 2010

To Live is Christ — taking care of business

A few years ago a woman started coming to our Bible study. She was a new Christian but an angry one. She took every opportunity to speak against the people that had wronged her. If not that, she broke each moment of silence to talk about herself.

Nevertheless, she sincerely wanted to grow and be a better person. One day when alone with her, the Holy Spirit put on my heart to suggest that she would not grow as long as her focus was on herself. A long silence. Then she said, “You are right.” She took that suggestion seriously. Her life began to change in remarkable way. She is now a joyful, happy person.

I need to remember my own advice. The last part of today’s devotional reading asks, “How much do you grow in the Lord when you have vindictive or spiteful thoughts?” This comes from the middle of this passage . . . 

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8–9)
My answer to that question? Not very much. Growth is not about filling my head with Bible knowledge. Some say that knowledge must go from my head to my heart. I say it has to go from knowing it to obeying it.

I can make excuses for getting upset with people. I’ve had some nasty things done to me. Anyone else would be angry and want to get even, or at least think unkind thoughts. Yet the Bible is clear. Vengeance and retaliation are God’s business. My business is to bless people.

Sometimes blessing others means telling them the truth in love, which motivated my suggestion to that new Christian. Sometimes blessing is keeping my mouth shut. Regardless of how it is expressed or shown to others, a blessing comes from a sympathetic and loving heart. It is tenderness coupled with humility. Whatever I say to others comes from “been there, done that” humility, besides a deep desire that they prosper, move forward and know Christ better.

Some people narrow the meaning of blessing. For them, it is feel-good situations and/or money. They like the Bible verses that promise a blessing to generous people, interpreting these to mean that God wants them rich. While money is not evil in itself, the love of it is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). So also is love of self, ease, power and control. Evil has many motivations and definitions.

Likewise, blessing has many descriptions, all opposite to the words that describe evil or sin. Stuff like retaliation, spite, pride, a contrary or harsh spirit, lack of affection, hardness of heart, name-calling, and selfishness cannot produce words or actions of blessing.

Not only that, things like this are a barricade. They stop the love of God from flowing to me and through me, and keep me from becoming more like Jesus. God wants every part of me clean and prepared to take care of the business He has given me. I cannot grow if I hang on to even a hint of stinky thinking.

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