July 9, 2012

Make peace, not war

The Holy Spirit convicts me today of being heartless. We have a neighbor who professes to be a Christian, yet her world is all about her. She listens to no one and is angry at or suspicious of most of the people on our street. We have been patient, but the last couple of days, not so much. 
God continually introduces us to people and situations that are at least inconvenient if not bothersome. It often happens when we are under other pressures, like moving. Unfortunately, unless I am filled with God’s Spirit and worshipping Him, the most natural thing to do is to respond with annoyance. 

If in that attitude I try to speak to fleshy Christians of God and how a Christian should behave, I will give them a truth or a verse like the jab of a spear. Instead of relying on Him for wisdom in how to deal with difficult people, I may even behave in worse ways that the person I accuse of thoughtlessness. To this, Oswald Chambers asks, who grieves God the most? Is it His immature child whose focus is always on herself, or His child who gets annoyed with the selfishness of the other child? 

Chambers uses that phrase, “the most natural thing,” to describe reliance on the old nature instead of the most unnatural thing of relying on God. When I rely on God, cares, tribulation, anxieties and even pesky people cannot get to me. When I recognize the abiding presence of Jesus Christ, worry cannot get in because God is with me. Such deep awareness of His presence and total reliance on Him is an effective barricade against all onslaughts.

God challenges me again. Instead of interceding for her and relying on God to provide grace and growth, I am frustrated that this is not happening. Instead of asking God for the right words to say, I’m blurting out my frustrations and hoping the poke of a strong rebuke will make stop her constant demands.

God calls me to live differently than that. While I am free in Christ and do not have “a list of rules for difficult people” I do have His Word telling me how to think and behave.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:13–26)
I could make excuses, such as: if I was the pest, then I’d want the other person to tell me to stop doing it; or we are moving and cannot be the sole resource for someone who has turned off everyone else from helping her. I could say the Spirit didn’t give me anything to say. Or I can take responsibility for my own lack of living in step with the Spirit. If He gives nothing to say, that means I should shut up.

Lord, at this point, I know that You don’t want me to be heartless and that You do want me to rely on You for a right attitude and right words toward others.  I’m certain that right now, if I tried to apologize to this neighbor for my heartlessness, I would also push for one from her for her thoughtlessness. Actually, I don’t think she is even aware of how she acts and seems oblivious how her behavior causes others to pull away. We have refused to feud with her, and have helped her in the past. We have no intention of making war. Grant us the grace needed to do whatever You want from us, in the Spirit and not bothered by whatever treatment we get in return. Blessed are the peacemakers…

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