August 1, 2017

“Listen up girl, I’m talking to you!”

This morning my sister is watching television news in the same room that allows me an Internet connection. The channel is doing a story on women who claim they are better mothers because they smoke pot. I read the headline and then looked down at the devotional passage for today. It says:

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

I sometimes don’t know whether to laugh or cry at God’s timing. His comment on that news story? Perhaps, but I always must remember that what God says to me as I read His Word is rarely for other people; He is speaking to me. This becomes more obvious as the passage continues . . .

“But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:17–24)

While I was not a smoker of any substance, my former life was “corrupt through deceitful desires” just as much as everyone else. I thought I knew everything about everything, and that other people were at best ignorant if not downright stupid. My arrogant pride is bad enough, but I recognize that pride is also a form of hatred. I did not like other people and it showed up by looking down at them. Today, God reminds me to put off that former attitude, no matter how insignificant it might show up in my new life in Christ.

God has all sorts of reasons for telling me to put off hatred. One of them is that hatred does not make friends and influence positive relationships . . .

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12)

People who do not like people usually have few if any friends. Not only that, love for others cannot be faked. People know whether or not they are loved or merely tolerated, cared for or being used. Genuine love is entirely opposite from hatred, even from apathy.

It does not take much to think of reasons for hating another person. People fail me, do unkind things, use and abuse, but love is different. For one thing, it does not look for reasons to care. As a reflection of how God loves, love originates in the heart of God’s people. We love because that is who we are in Christ. Because Jesus lives in me, I can love others.

His warning is not to give into the old nature and let hatred and other old junk back into my life. It will cause problems for me and for those around me!

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 4:31–32; 5:1-2)

Jesus, You have taught me that those who think drugs make them better people are deceived. However, a person does not have to be involved in substance abuse, alcohol, or anything other than just going their own way to be deluded. Sin does it to us. I know because it can delude me. I’m grateful for You as my Savior because there are so many times I need saving, mostly from my foolish determination to run my own life. Your forgiveness is precious and Your love motivates me to stop being the way I once was and walk in love — caring for others like You love me.

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