I’ve been pondering things that consistently seem to trip us up on this road to living a transformed life of love in Christ Jesus, and I’ve just as consistently come to the conclusion that transformation begins and ends in our thinking. We live from the flow of our mind – the perspective from which we interpret all the happenings around us. When our minds are given over to Jesus, then we both see and respond to Truth. Thus, we are no longer manipulated by anything apart from righteousness.
Yeah, it’s no wonder this struggle is so often referred to as “the battlefield of the mind.”
It’s hard to take every thought captive and bring it under the obedience and lordship of Jesus, which is proven obvious by all the challenges we experience in relationships on a daily basis. Let’s face it, seldom do we confront each other filled with grace and truth at every encounter. More often, we hem haw back and forth, sidestepping each other, avoiding folks who make us uncomfortable or who stretch us in the areas of unconditional love and forgiveness.
Protecting ourselves from “toxic” relationships has become a catch-phrase in our day, but I have a hard time justifying it when I’m reading through the Scriptures. It appears there’s a fine line between self-care and selfishness, and sadly, most of us teeter toward the selfish side (present company included).
In truth, instead of avoiding all things toxic, there’s much more directive for children of God to act like our Namesake. As such, we are called to die to ourselves, not to flee from others and deem it self-preservation. No, we are to bless those who spitefully use us, and we are challenged to pray for those who persecute us and have our worst interests at heart.
In short, we are called to live an upside-down life in this world’s system in order to turn our world upside-down (or more appropriately, right-side-up).
But how can we do that when we are too busy protecting ourselves from hurt? When we continually expect others to come to us instead of meeting them along the way, with arms stretched wide to receive the prodigal? Even when the prodigal is still wallowing about in the filth of a pig pen. How do we expect others to be drawn to the love God has placed within us when we clench our fists and allow our hearts to overflow with bitterness in place of forgiveness? When judgment is our first thought and mercy seldom even makes an appearance on our self-righteous lists?
No wonder the world isn’t buying into our brand of Christianity when it’s so often portrayed from self-distorted displays of WWJD?.
Please hear me, this is not a post telling you to stay in a dangerous or abusive situation. If your life is threatened, by all means flee from the one who has the power to hurt you. This is not a post speaking to battered wives or abused children, etc. This is about children of God who are avoiding others because they are not feeling loved or accepted or understood… or any number of acts of disrespect or disappointment which feed into our insecurities.
Let me ask you a few things point blank:
What if we took those insecurities to Jesus instead?
What if we sacrificed our own interests in the interest of others? Others who seldom, if ever, would consider sacrificing their interests for us?
What if we stopped seeking approval from humans and simply drew our identity from the One who knows and loves us fully?
I KNOW this is not an easy thing to do. It might not even be an easy thing for some of us to consider thinking about doing.
But… what if?
What if your purposefulness to love through the hurt was the first step in redeeming a strained or broken relationship? What if you are the very one God wants to use to bring about the fullness of His grace unleashed upon your spouse, or your child, or your parent or sibling or friend or co-worker?
What if the very things which have caused the most hurt in your life are the very places God wants to birth life and hope, joy and peacefulness?
What if the very people who have caused the most hurt in your life are the very ones in need of salvation? Because they most likely are.
What IF we really do start living the lives of the Blessed – following after Jesus’ plea from Matthew 5 and reveling in the call to be poor in spirit, gentle, merciful, pure in heart, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, peacemakers, insulted for doing good, rejoicing and being glad and looking to heaven instead of this earth for our reward?
What if, instead of cutting off hurtful relationships, we instead suffer through them and pray for restoration to come in Jesus’ name?
What if we really lived what we claim to believe – to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? Including those who are famous for causing us grief and stress… maybe especially those.
What IF God is calling you and me to be His catalysts of grace to a broken and lost world that can’t help but respond to us from wounds of emptiness borne as a result of living each day apart from Him? Wouldn’t it be worth our finite trials and pain to see people set free and released into God’s grace and salvation for eternity?
What if we grappled with our self and came out dead to it and alive to Jesus? Fully ready – or maybe in truth, never ready – but willing to be the one who will live as The One. Full of grace and truth and abounding in loving kindness to a world at odds with God.
To a people at odds with us.
What if, when all was said and done, we were really willing to be the ones to suffer for righteousness’ sake?