Monday, September 23, 2013

Attracting the right attention?

Commitment has a way of drawing attention at times, doesn't it?  Get "into" something with all your heart and you will find there are others who will find fault in your pursuit!  If you haven't figure it out by now, God is interested in how we will respond when we are criticized, put down, or when others try to "undo" something we are in the process of doing.  Most of their interference and resistance is really without cause, so a response of telling them they don't know what THEY are doing, or THEY are being unfair seems pretty logical to me.  God's desire is for us to respond differently.  In fact, scripture tells us we are to "put up with" being treated badly, even when there is no good reason for the way we are being treated (I Peter 2).  Our response matters.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:10 NIV)

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.  (Matthew 5:10 MSG)

Our values often differ from the values of others.  Get your values in alignment with what scripture teaches and they will likely differ a great deal from what the mindset of the majority would dictate.  This is what causes us to have a little more of a "target" painted on our chest, isn't it?  We "stand out" because we "stand up".  Anytime you are willing to stand up for whatever it is you value and the values you have chosen to adhere to, there will be others who will try to get at you by their differing opinion or outright resistance to what it is you stand for.  If you have ever tried to live according to the "opinions" of others, you probably have known the frustration of trying to hit a moving target.  Opinions change, don't they?  So, if we are trying to live by what another chooses for us, we are certain to be living a life which is up and down, here and there, and without any real stability at all.  

I think there is merit in understanding how Jesus wants us to really live.  We find this out in our review of scripture, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us truths which will release us from those things which only serve to keep us in mindsets (and heart-sets) which will give us challenges and pain.  We also find this out in our listening to the right voices - not the loudest opinions.  If you haven't picked up on this by now, the softest voices are sometimes the clearest and closest.  The loudest are demanding, but they may not give that much clarity!  We have to do both - allow our minds and hearts to be made right AND learn to hear the right voices.

As I came through Bible College back in the early 80's, my professor spoke some words I penned into the pages of my Bible and have often referred to over the years.  His advice:  Live in such a way that no one can accuse you - even so as to not give the appearance of any wrongdoing in your life. A pretty loft goal, right?  The context of where he shared these words was in a discussion of morality.  He was speaking particularly to those circumstances when you find yourselves totally innocent in what it is you are doing, but where another may "interpret" what you are doing as something less than innocent (because of the "appearance" which is portrayed).  His example was that of a man and woman having lunch together at a local cafe.  One is married, the other not.  To the outsider who knows this fact, the "lunch" may not appear as "innocent" as it really is.  Living in such a way so as to avoid even the appearance of evil is really tough business, but it gives those who want to find fault with your actions one less thing to grab onto!

Here's one thing I have discovered over the years:  Those who want to persecute us don't point out our good points!  They point out our areas of weakness, don't they?  They zero in on the one thing they know about us which is a small area of weakness and use it to magnify they view of what it is they want to focus on.  Most of life's "persecuting" moments are really centered about pointing out our weaknesses, not our strengths.  So, maybe this is why we work so hard to "cover up" our weaknesses!  We somehow figure if no one can "see" them, they cannot use them against us!  Ha!  Now that's a good one!  Try as we might, our weaknesses are visible even behind the best of facades!  They may not be as they appear to us, but they are evident, nonetheless.  A masked weakness is still a weakness - it makes us a target, maybe just not for the right reason!

One thing for certain - God doesn't make perfect Christians.  He embraces sinners, complete with all their imperfections.  It is sometimes those very imperfections which get the attention of those who want to point them out and zero in on us for their attack.  All we can do is allow God to take our imperfections clearly into his care and cover them with his grace.  When we are attacked for them, we just need to allow his grace to shine through.  God knows these issues already and is at work in us to change those things he has in mind to change within us.  Our enemies and those with differing opinions will point them out so as to discredit the work of Christ in our lives.  We need to stand on the knowledge of God's grace being at work in those areas - despite the evidence others may see which shows we are not yet perfect!

There is something God wants of us:  Follow him close enough so others see a little bit of him in us.  They may not see ALL of him in us yet, but if they at least catch a glimpse of him in us, we are following as we should.  We may attract some negative attention because we still haven't had all the "rough edges" smoothed out in our lives, but when others can see enough of Jesus to know he is at work "smoothing us out", we are living as we ought.  Just sayin!

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