Over the past couple of weeks I have been referencing this thing called "behavior" a lot. If we don't think it matters, we are sadly mistaken. We probably all know the adage, "Do as I say, not as I do." In simply saying there is an inconsistency between what one says and then how one acts, we are setting up a standard contrary to what brings honor to God. I have a little sign in my office, given to me years ago, which simply reads, "Every time you walk by the violation of a standard, you set a new standard" - profound insight indeed. This is certainly important to me in my job since I am responsible for assisting people to adhere to the standards we are to operate within for our healthcare environment. Those standards provide safe conditions for our patients and promote positive outcomes. So, the standards matter - and every violation of a standard matters, as well. What others observe in our "behavior" - good or bad - can actually set a "standard" by which they will pattern their lives. This is the "big deal" behind having our behavior match our words.
Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you. Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honor God by telling the good things they saw you do. (I Peter 2:11-12 CEV)
Most of us have a little trouble thinking of ourselves as foreigners and strangers on this earth. After all, we were born on this earth, learned to walk and talk on this earth, and we live out our days on this earth. To say we "don't belong" or that we are not "native" to this earth is kind of strange, right? To fully understand this concept being taught here, we must understand a deeper meaning of the word "foreigner". You see, a foreigner is not produced from the place or circumstances in which they currently exist - they come "from" a different originating point. In essence, what is being said is that when we came to Christ a new nature was re-created within us - something which did not originate on this earth, but came from heaven above. Christ's nature becomes ours and we are now "living on earth", but are "from" a place of origin much different than this earth! The earth is not holy - God's presence is a place of ultimate holiness. The earth is not "made right" through the blood of Jesus - but we are!
So, we live where we were physically born, but we now live with a spiritual rebirth - our nature is changed and as such, it no longer reflects the nature we were born into. As long as we continue to "dwell" upon this earth, we will have this struggle between the desires which are a result of human nature and the desire to live holy lives, honoring God by both our words AND our actions. Since most of us "get" how a person is born into this world by "natural" birth, it seems logical we can conclude the possibility of what a "re-birth" in a spiritual sense accomplishes. Birth is a starting place - we all begin at the point of birth. This becomes important for us because the place of "new beginnings" is at the place of our "re-birth". The moment we are born (or reborn), we take in breath. Breath is necessary for life. In a natural sense, our breath is composed of what is in the air we take into our lungs. In a spiritual sense, the breath we take in is that of the Holy Spirit - for God "breathes in" his Spirit within us - giving us life anew.
Now it makes sense how we could be foreigners in a place we were once natives! Our "native" ways of behaving are no longer the mode of operation for us - we have a new "breath" within which creates a desire to live "differently" - as though we were from a different place of origin (and we are). The call is to let others observe us behaving according to the new nature - that which is energized by the Holy Spirit and which produces actions of "holiness" within. Why? A picture is better than a thousand words - what we see speaks louder than what we hear. I am an observer of human behavior - always looking at how people posture, what their expressions are, and what they do with their eyes. Why? It helps me know if they are engaged! It also gives me a clue into how they are doing at that moment. A couple days ago, my best friend sauntered by my office and stopped in her tracks when she saw me. Why? I had my head resting on my arm, kind of laying on my desk. This is not my "usual" posture! I don't nap at work! I had just ended a call and with all the other stuff which had been going on that same day, the particular details of the call almost made my head spin! Hence, I laid it down a moment or two!
She observed my behavior and new it was not "normal" for me. People are observers of our behavior all the time. They almost always look to us to be consistent - and when we are not, it catches them by surprise! I needed a "regroup" moment at that point - something I don't need too often, but definitely did that day. It was about 60 seconds, but it was what I needed to just pull my thoughts together and move on. In that small fraction of time, I was observed! You never know who is watching and when you will be observed, my friends. In reference to having our behavior being consistent with our new nature, this is critical to understand. When we live so close to the "earthly nature" that others cannot observe the "new nature" coming through, we aren't being the instruments of God's grace he desires for us to be on this earth. As we allow God's Spirit to guide our responses to life on this earth, we will reveal consistency. Whenever we veer from allowing him to guide those responses, we run the danger of living quite inconsistent lives - not matching up to our new place of origin! Just sayin!