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Monday, April 29, 2013

Pushed or pulled?

Hold the high ground - it is the best and most successful position!  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "If you would lift me up, you must be on higher ground."  He had something there, don't ya think?  For someone to lift another, they have to have a position which allows them to pull, not push another!  Think about it - you can only push or boost another up when you are at a point lower than they are.  If you are at a point higher, you can pull.  To push really means you are putting pressure against - so as to move what seems to be immovable.  To pull means you draw toward - so as to bring closer to where you are.  I think there is something to be said for being pulled, rather than always having to be pushed!

All of you, slave and free both, were once held hostage in a sinful society. Then a huge sum was paid out for your ransom. So please don’t, out of old habit, slip back into being or doing what everyone else tells you. Friends, stay where you were called to be. God is there. Hold the high ground with him at your side.  (I Corinthians 7:23-24 MSG)

Old habits die hard, don't they?  In fact, we might find they never really "die".  There is some niggling memory of every old habit we might have had - it may no longer have any appeal to us, even seeming a little repulsive to us now, but there is a hint of memory which reminds us of its existence.  Since we have memory of the old, it might just be easier to "slip back" into the old than we realize.  Usually this "slippage" is not on purpose, but rather is because we weren't paying close enough attention to what was going on around us.  This is probably why God cautions us to "consider" our ways.  To consider means we contemplate, meditate upon - in other words, think things through over and over again.  Once he helps us break our ties with the past, he doesn't want us to remunerate the past memories, but to think on the new over and over.  In replacing the old with the new, we break the ties with the old.

There is a danger in receiving counsel without comparing it to the source of all counsel - God himself.  God gives us counsel in his Word on almost every topic you can imagine - those he doesn't speak to plainly, we can usually simply use the principles taught in scripture to know whether the counsel is good or not so worthy of our attention.  There will always be those who give counsel freely - not really considering what their "opinions" will add to the confusion some may experience in their own minds already.  These "opinionated" counselors are doing nothing more than lending confusion to the mix.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he was giving them wisdom - to keep them on the higher ground.  Why?  Slippage is easy - staying in a position where you can lift another is harder, but it is the place of advantage!

Look at his counsel - it is out of old habit we slip back into being what we don't want to be, or doing what all the others are doing.  We stop considering the best and just go with the easiest.  Habit is almost involuntary - it doesn't take much thought.  I think Paul is challenging believers to put thought into their actions - to determine to live on purpose, not by some involuntary motions.  Aristotle once said, "We are what we repeatedly do."  So, true!  What is almost more important, and I think what Paul may actually be driving at here, is that what we repeat gets repeated by others.  I affect more than me, you affect more than you.  

I don't often quote Warren Buffett, but he did say something I found quite profound:  "Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."  Think on this one - too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.  Since Paul is dealing with our ties to the past, he is reminding us of how easy it is to become enslaved again to the things we have been freed from, simply because we don't realize the binding force until it is often too late.  As I opened today, I considered two positions - being pulled and being pushed.  Going back to those two, I want to focus a moment on being pushed.  You see, there was something in the definition which I don't want to gloss over.  The idea of being pushed is related to being immovable.  We have dug in and are content to be where we are.  Sometimes we need a little push, especially when we have become immovable - stalled in some rut.  The tendency to remain in a rut is too great, so we need some pushing at times.  

I think Paul may have been dealing with both those of us who need a little push at times, and those of us with the capacity to do a little pulling, by our example, words, and faith.  If you have found "higher ground" than some, you are in a position to pull - to elevate, to draw toward.  If you are struggling in some rut, you have the capacity to be pushed, but guess what?  Someone has to be behind you to push!  So, even being in a position of being pushed is really being on a little higher ground than another!  Just sayin!