The poet and philosopher of olden days, Samuel Johnson, is credited for these words: "Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." Thinking upon these words may just cause us to reexamine how it is we have been responding to people on occasion! We may not be fond of the way they act, the things they are demanding of us, or the lack of responsiveness on their part, but it doesn't have to affect the kindness we continue to reveal to them. Mark Twain once said, "Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see." Both authors hit the nail squarely on the head, don't you think?
We have cause to celebrate because the grace of God has appeared, offering the gift of salvation to all people. Grace arrives with its own instruction: run away from anything that leads us away from God; abandon the lusts and passions of this world; live life now in this age with awareness and self-control, doing the right thing and keeping yourselves holy. (Titus 2:11-12 VOICE)
The grace of God is the beginning of change in our lives - we don't get away with being the same once grace begins to envelop our lives in the richness of undeserved favor! Grace arrives with instructions. How many of us actually read the instructions before we try to make something work? If you are like most of the people in this world, you simply pull the appliance out of the box, remove the packaging and things holding other things together, set it on the counter and begin to use it. Why? We trust we know how it should work, so we set about making it work the way we believe it should. This may not always work in life, though. Life isn't always according to our perception of how we believe it should work! Especially when it comes to relating one to another!
When grace comes into our lives, we are given these instructions:
1) Run away from anything which leads us away from God. It doesn't say live as close to it as you possibly can, or dabble in it once in a while (just don't let it get hold of you). It says to "run away" from it. I like this to the wisdom of not standing still when you see a swarming hive of bees heading your direction! If you want to get bit, stand still! If you want to stand half a chance of surviving - get to safety. The same is true in our spiritual lives - survival is not attained by doing the same things we did before grace entered into our lives. It is attained and lived out because we do what grace directs us to do instead of what feels best at the moment. As Johnson said, kindness is not based on fondness - it is based on knowing it is the right response to exhibit!
2) Abandon the lusts and passions of this world. About one mile from my house, there is an abandoned old home. It probably has stood there since about the forties or fifties. It isn't remarkable in anyway, except for the fact it is falling down, unsafe to dwell in any longer, and boarded up. It stands still, but it is abandoned - no longer inhabited. It has been forsaken - left to crumble and fall down. One day, I imagine someone will purchase the property, bulldozing it down and putting up some new building in its place. For now, it stands as a reminder of what once was, but which now stands utterly deserted by human life. There are a lot of times we allow the lusts and passions we are troubled with to remain standing - boarded up, but still there are reminders of being our "former haunt" in life. I think we might just do more good to bulldoze them down instead of preserving them as reminders of what once was!
3) Live with awareness and self-control. To be truly free of those things which have been issues in our lives, we need to be aware of how much they have affected us, what they use as agents in our lives to bring distress, and then develop the resources to rise above their plaguing attacks. It starts with fleeing, is made an ever-growing reality in our lives by us abandoning (deserting) what gives us all the grief, and then taking on a new way of living. Awareness comes as we have opened eyes, listening ears, and responsive hearts. It is more than being conscious of our actions, but being deliberate to not return to that which we have abandoned. We all realize that determination alone is not going to keep us from returning to the things which gave us so much grief in the past, though. If determination alone was enough, we'd never need to diet again! Self-control is not something which is totally reliant upon "self" to get our lives under control. In fact, self-control begins by giving into the control of grace in our lives - to begin to exchange one action for another, until gradually and faithfully we are transformed from what we once were into what we are becoming. All of life is about what we are becoming - not what we have become! Things which have become often begin to go stale or rot in place! Just sayin!