The Lord commands me to love Him with all my heart, soul and strength, and to love my neighbors as myself. I’ve heard some say how much they love people, but I honestly cannot say that. At times, my love for God is not one 100 percent either, or I would obey Him and be thankful all the time.
Last week I read a book about the impact of words and the importance of speaking well about people. The Lord convicted me of those times I’ve inwardly complained about others and verbally expressed my complaints. I confessed my bad attitudes and inappropriate speaking, hoping that would be the end of it.
But I found myself feeling annoyed with someone yesterday. I tried not to say anything, and didn’t do too badly with my mouth, but went to bed with that irritation in my heart. Even as I write this, I’m thinking that I just have to speak against that person, more evidence that what is in the heart will eventually come out.
But God knows what I need. He does not deal with the other person (as I wish He would), but gives me these verses from today’s devotional reading.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:16–18)As I read this Old Testament Law, it’s beyond me how anyone can think they could be saved by keeping God’s Law. This one alone would condemn most of us. It certainly nails me to the wall. I might be able to keep my mouth shut about the way I feel (or more likely not), but the attitude of the heart condemns me anyway. Jesus even said that anyone who hates is the same as a murderer, and out of the heart comes all the garbage that shows humanity to be sinful.
So what can I do with this? Each time the crud comes up from within, I need to bring it to Jesus. Obviously, I cannot save myself.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8–9)Jesus forgives and cleanses. This means that yesterday’s attitude can be taken from me, yet I know that is only the fruit of something deeper. In my heart, there is a propensity to pride, to make myself look good at the expense of anyone I can talk about that doesn’t look good. Instead of merely shutting my mouth when annoyed, or instead of never becoming annoyed, the deeper problem is a lack of humility. I think that others should treat me better because I am better? Yeah, right. If anything is beyond faking, it is humility.
These verses offer one other course of action. “Reason frankly with your neighbor.” That is another way of saying what the New Testament affirms. If someone sins against me, I’m to talk to them . . . not to anyone or everyone else, but bring the issue to the person who offended me. This is much more difficult than it sounds because the Lord forbids that I jump all over that person with accusation and condemnation. Instead, I’m to deeply desire that neither the offender nor I are caught up in sin. Speaking to that person cannot be done with revenge in mind either. I know if I am angry with someone, I cannot “reason frankly” at all. Clearly, the problem at this point is with my responses and my heart, not with the other person’s actions.
*********Lord, this lump of clay seems destined to never become a lovely jar. You keep me on Your wheel, shaping and working out the lumps until I feel dizzy, even discouraged that I will never please You or get it right. What else is there to say? You are correct in Your words and Your warnings. Have mercy on me. You know what I need.