I have struggled this week.
I found myself feeling really judgmental – of judgmental people. I felt jaded as I encountered earnest attempts of people who, in my estimation, had a limited grasp of the big picture. I faltered in extending patience to someone who came across as so arrogant while conveniently ignoring their own blindspots.
I wanted to just hang out with people who expressed and experienced faith in a way that resonated with me. I wanted to put distance between myself and those who seemingly contributed to barriers rather than bridges. I wanted to protect my friends – to the point of making assumptions or labeling those who seemed to be threatening them.
I’m afraid I didn’t smell very much like Jesus this week.
I was a shit.
And it would be easy to trot out the context and backdrop for those oh so understandable and human responses.
“I was weary of feeling attacked and misunderstood.” “People are jerks” “I was PMSing….”
But, I think it will be much more cleansing for my own soul and my truest desire to simply get back on track by simply admitting: I missed it. I was a shit.
For family devotions last night, I read one of my most loved texts in the Message:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do!
And then …..
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
And the Word and the Spirit did what they are supposed to do …. They convicted and challenged me at just the right time in just the right way. No fighting. No defensiveness. Simply – yup – I’ve missed it.
The challenge of a bridge-builder is to love on all sides. To respond like Christ. To not take offense. To not let pride or frustration get the upper hand. On Dr. Stackhouse’s blog, he posted a quote from Phillip Doddridge’s book, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul:
How does your mind stand affected toward those who differ from you in their religious feelings and practices? I do not say that Christian charity will require you to think every error harmless…. But to hate persons because we think they are mistaken, and to aggravate every difference in judgement or practice into a fatal and damnable error that destroys all Christian communion and love, is a symptom generally much worse than the evil it condemns. Do you love the image of Christ in a person who thinks himself obliged in conscience to profess and worship in a manner different from yourself? More than this, can you love and honor that which is truly amiable and excellent in those in whom much is defective–in those in whom there is a mixture of bigotry and narrowness of spirit, which may lead them perhaps to slight or even to censure you? Can you love them as the disciples and servants of Christ who, through a mistaken zeal, may be ready to “cast out your name as evil” (Luke 6:22) and to warn others against you as a dangerous person?
There were some people I legitimately wanted to send this to this week. People who seemed to be straining at a gnat …. Some who would like to see me removed from my position in ministry. But in the emotion and exhaustion of it all, my own heart was compromised.
Stackhouse goes on to suggest that to Doddridge, “To show such love is one of the great triumphs of the work of God in one’s life.”
This kind of love requires courage and trust. It requires a strength that I lack.
But I’m going to get back up on my bike …… and keep on riding.