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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Defense Let Down

 15 Patient persistence pierces through indifference;
   gentle speech breaks down rigid defenses.
(Proverbs 25:15)

Indifference is really a condition of the heart and mind in which a person has determined that they have little interest or concern.  Another term we use that is quite similar to indifference is the term "mediocrity".  There are some telltale signs that someone is pretty much indifferent, or that they have "settled" for a position of mediocrity in their lives.  An indifferent individual might look like this:

- Apathetic to the needs of their life or those of another
- Calm, cool indifference in the face of what would cause uneasiness or apprehension in others
- A seeming absence of emotional connection with others or circumstances around them

When you hear indifference described that way, you might think of an individual who struggles with frequent periods of depression, but they are not the only ones that experience this kind of apathy or distanced-connection with the world around them.  In fact, any of us can be indifferent in much the same way simply as a matter of our choosing.

Rigidity is something a little different.  This condition suggests an unwillingness to bend, no concern for yielding the stand one has taken.  We might label this person as "hard" or "callous".  It comes from a Latin word from which we get another term - rigor.  When we think of rigor, we might also think of rigor-mortis - the stiffness of death!

Solomon was giving us instruction that we can both use in our own lives and in our interactions with others.  Neither condition of heart, mind, or soul is desirable.  An apathetic mind leads to very little positive action.  A rigid heart, hardened by life's hurts will do little to reach out to another for help.  An unyielding soul is in danger of hell.

Two things are presented by Solomon as the antidote to indifference and rigidity.  The patient persistence of a loving God is what breaks through our indifference - he challenges us to take up this same patient persistence in dealing with the indifference of others.  The gentle words of a merciful God breaks through the areas of hardness in our lives - he challenges us to exercise the same gracefulness in our conversation with each other.

It seems like we have the greatest difficulty allowing God to "get into our business" where we have the greatest amount of indifference or where we have erected the walls of rigid unyieldness toward him.  We need to remember that he "counters" our apathy and hardness in much the same way he asks us to "counter" those same traits in others.  A wise friend used to tell me, "We are quick to see in others the things we don't want to see in ourselves."  She was so true in her assessment of my actions and attitude!  What I was unwilling to allow God to deal with in me became the thing I "criticized" most in others.

We would do well to ask God to target areas of apathy and hardness in our lives.  In turn, we need to ask him for the patience to persist and the gentleness of speech that will allow us to be instruments of grace in the lives of those we have been the hardest on.  When we really begin to ask why we are being so hard on them, we might be surprised to know that it is because the area we find fault with is really so close to what God wants to deal with in us!