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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rules for Christian Living - Part Six

We have all probably heard a version of this quip:  "Payback is a bummer".  You may have heard it just a little differently, but you get the idea!  The "payback" for some of our misdeeds or meddling may be something we are not really counting on, but we can almost stand assured it is coming!  When I was younger, I was much more of a practical joker and liked to pull little pranks on people.  I learned that payback was really not something I liked!  There were times some of my friends and I would try to "one up" each other in the prank, having to be very creative about how it was we'd get the other one back for the last prank they pulled.  The problem with this kind of "one-upmanship" is that eventually the pranks had to get pretty elaborate and almost a little cruel or unsafe.  There was almost no end to the places we'd invade, the things we'd use, and the mischievous ways we'd prank one another.  It had to stop somewhere, though.  So, eventually I found myself a little convicted for some of the stuff I was doing and in time I cam to recognize these pranks as really not creating more of a cohesive relationship, but driving a bit of a wedge in between us.  I stopped - and guess what - they stopped, too!  Why did they stop?  They no longer had to "pay back" the mischief - we were just free to be going about our normal business of life without trying to create the way we'd "get even" with the other guy!  I think God has a similar plan in mind when it comes to our relationships with each other - we need to guard against the "one-upmanship" practices, engage in active forgiveness, and allow him to be in control when things are spinning way out of our own sphere of influence.

Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good. If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21 CEB)

The principles we will consider today are really hard for some of us to grasp because we have not learned to let go of stuff, doing what I refer to as "gunny-sacking" the hurts and misdeeds of others until we "need" them someday in the future to really "stick it to them".  It is like we have this "sack" we might label our "revenge rucksack".  We pack it so full of the things people say, do, and even don't have a clue they have said or done which hurt us, leave us disappointed, or just plain were unthinking acts.  Then one day that "perfect" moment comes when we will "unload" this stuff - putrid from sometimes years and years of decay within our "rucksack"!  Eeesh!  What a mess this creates in relationships.  It is God's intent for us to not just empty the rucksack, but to completely remove it from our shoulders, hands, and possession!

We will always be in contact with others within our circles who just don't see things as we do.  This is life.  You might expect me to say we need to learn to "deal with it" to the best of our abilities, but herein is where we find ourselves pulling out the rucksack and "packing for the trip".  We need to learn to not so much "deal with it" ourselves, but allow God to deal with it!  If we do this, we find ourselves not needing the rucksack in the first place!  If you think of the purpose of a rucksack, it is designed for the shoulders, to be slung across the back of the one bearing the load within.  Rucksack is a German term meaning bag for the back.  So, in essence, when we put things another does or says which disappoint us into our "rucksack", we are bearing the burden of the hurt they are causing on our own shoulders.  It becomes the load which often breaks our backs because we weren't meant to actually bear up under that load in the first place!

The idea of "remaining current" within relationships is probably one of the ways we eliminate the tendency to put things in the rucksack.  When we deal with the hurts of today, they don't become the disappointments we nurse well into the future.  Sometimes we can easily accomplish this by taking just a few moments to step back, considering the perspective of the other person, and realize they just didn't intend to come across the way they did, or didn't even realize they did what they did.  At other times, we need to talk things out and get things in the open so they can be dealt with.  Either way, we eliminate the tendency to store up stuff in our rucksack when we do!  

Revenge is really not sweet - although it may seem that way to one who has been "housing" a lot of stuff in their rucksack.  The issue is really that the bitterness created by "housing" all those memories and hurts inside the sack just allows them to get all jumbled together and messed up.  Eventually we won't be able to distinguish one "issue" from another because they are all "tainted" by the other!  What comes out is a mess of bitter and disgusting thoughts, words, and deeds.  To avoid this happening, we need to rid ourselves of the sack!  What we are asked to do is trust God to "deal with" the other individual in the way he sees fit.  God may convict them with his kindness, or he may bring a little displeasure their way - that is his business and totally his "purview".  We need to just leave this in his hands.  When we do, we walk away without a burden on our shoulders we weren't meant to bear up under in the first place.

So, our lesson today - ditch the rucksack!  Just sayin!