I summed up the previous post with this:
“Trust is earned and develops over time. But sometimes we forget that something must precede even the possibility for this trust to ever develop. Do you have any idea what that might be?”
Over the fifteen and some years I’ve been away from religious institutions I’ve learned a few things and met a variety of new friendships. The majority of the newer friendships have been fairly recent, most within the last two years. Due to a major failure of mine in continuing to cultivate what has become difficult at times with others over previous years, this time my focus is altogether different than it once was.
For years of religious routine, the focus despite including Jesus was really more about me, though rarely did I see this. It was about what I thought was right (my understanding of the truth), my rights (exercising my gifts, being respected etc) what I enjoyed (as in music preference) and being around others who believed mostly in the manner I did. Their were these unspoken and subtle parameters that I had erected and God forbid you cross one. I wasn’t mean spirited at all, I just had my own preconceived notions about certain things, certain words and certain actions of others that to me were taboo. In reality though, I was erecting a standard that was inconsistent with the only standard- God’s alone. This is similar to those who refuse to celebrate certain holidays attempting to mandate that other Christians share their convictions or they separate from them. Is that an acceptable practice before God? Are we not called to accept those who God accepts and on His basis of acceptance alone?
For an example, when we were still in church, how many people did we judge who claimed to be Christians but didn’t go to church? I’ll answer that one: all of them. I couldn’t even conceive of a Christian being faithful who didn’t attend church. For how long did I believe that one must be trained professionally to become a religious leader? For a long, long time. It took years to reverse these ingrained lies, lies I chose to believe and even led many others to believe as well.
Sadly, all of us practice an even greater evil than this, an evil we justify time and time again. That evil is rejecting in words or practice someone that God has accepted and shaming them by our use of words or actions toward them. If someone comes to their aid this is what God promises will occur to the offender:
“Do not go out hastily to argue your case; (what we think is true about a given situation or individual) otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor humiliates you? (by proving us wrong or mistaken) Argue your case with your neighbor, and do not reveal the secret of another, or he who hears it will reproach you, and the evil report about you will not pass away”
In other words, when individuals are hurt or slandered (either purposefully or accidentally), their will be consequences that result for the offender- even if they are simply mistaken about their judgments. Compare this with the very next verse that contrasts a hastily spoken word with a rightly spoken and timely word:
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances” One word is a dagger that gets brothers and sisters running from each other while the other is a balm of edification that draws others nearer one to another. Even in reproof the verse here applies beautifully:
“Like an earring of gold and an ornament of gold, is a wise reprover to a listening ear.”[Proverbs 25:8-12]
In our interactions with each other it is vital that we “hear” one another properly. Many people simply react to the things others say and do without even considering all the varying nuances that affect our communication one to another that I mentioned earlier. When this occurs then the proverb rings true:
“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”[Proverbs 18:13] Can I offer an example of how this happened to me?
A year or so I met another brother who had a site and wrote about many of the things we all see rightly these days about what real biblical Christianity entails. At first our sharing was blessed and I thought we were very much likeminded. After a while he started writing my words in my emails back to me (in a different color) and commenting upon them. In many instances what he thought I wrote was not what I meant nor did it describe my positions. He was reading into what I wrote and not taking what I wrote at face value. This happened so many times he eventually accused me of being dishonest, even questioning whether I was even a believer at all! After attempting to reconcile the situation, I finally decided it wasn’t possible and politely stopped writing him. Granted, this was an extreme case, but most of our disagreements are nowhere near this, nor would they justify separation in any manner.
The fact is that many people get hurt and ostracized often for unjustifiable reasons all the time. This predominately occurs because “our agenda” isn’t being either protected or in some cases we believe it is being threatened. For example, my agenda could include “not being hurt by others” which is not only impossible to avoid but is selfish in nature. None of us can avoid being hurt, though we can decide the manner in which our hurt is addressed and what we will do about it. My agenda can also include defending my doctrinal distinctives (as in a system of theology) or participating in a fellowship so I can be encouraged which is also selfish in nature. In fact, in whatever manner I am attempting to secure something for myself from you or anyone else as a Christian, I have in some measure stopped “listening or hearing properly.” It is no different from marrying someone because they have something I want for myself. Does that exemplify our Lord Jesus or Paul the apostle who claimed it is more blessed to give than receive? Do we even believe this anymore?
There are many things in life we need to be quick to hear. First, we need to be quick to “hear” what Jesus is saying as we learn to follow Him. We need to quick to “hear” what the Spirit is saying to the ekklesias (or in our case our local ekklesia) and be sure our lives are properly aligned with His guidance and direction. Lastly, and equally important is this: We need to “hear” the hurts and pains of our brothers and sisters and attempt to relieve them- at our expense, especially if we caused them.
Without the cross of Christ working upon us, we will either attack others, defend our “rights” or separate from others when the pain becomes too much for us. None of the above is an acceptable substitute for dying to ourselves. My agenda, my rights, my anything must die in the interests of others. That is an acceptable sacrifice in our spiritual service of worship before God.
Where I truly have the interests of Jesus Christ my Lord as the focal point of my life, what others do or say will have little bearing upon how I act in return. When I embrace the fact that I no longer live, I have nothing left to justify nor defend. All that remains is Him, and a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.