For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”
(I Peter 3:10-12 NLT)
I have met many an individual who is seeking enjoyment in life with gusto. Their every move is somehow purposed to get as much from the moment as possible, all while planning the next steps they will take so the enjoyment just doesn't have to end. I vacation with a friend about twice a year, getting a little respite from being a caregiver and just being able to be away. As the week begins, we are always excited about the possibilities the week holds - the discoveries as we enjoy a little time with nature on a hike, or get a few good movies under our belt on a "veg" day. As the week draws to an end, we will always comment to each other about how short the week was! Why? We want that sense of enjoyment and liberty to continue! Most of us want to live less complicated and more liberated lives, but in reality life is quite complicated and there are a whole lot of things making demands upon us that can easily compromise our liberty when given the right opportunity.
The scriptures "lay out" a "pattern" for living in such a way that we are able to enjoy our "liberty". We must embrace this "pattern" if we are to totally be unencumbered by the mess of stuff that would seek to waylay us into compromise. So, let's discuss what that pattern entails:
- Keep your tongue from speaking evil or telling lies. Now, before anyone really gets too caught up in the absolute insanity of actually being able to do this on a day to day basis, let me assure you this one is going to be a "work in progress" throughout all our days on this earth! Our mouth gets us into a whole lot of messy places we'd rather not have gone once we discover we are there, doesn't it? Notice this is an action on our part - we are to "keep" our mouths "from" speaking evil. This must mean we have to exert a little control - but we all know that control over our tongue is much harder than we'd like to admit. We must take conscious action to choose our words - with our words beginning in what it is we allow our minds to dwell upon. When we want to keep our tongues from speaking evil, we must begin with keeping our minds from going down wrong paths of envy, judgment, and other malicious pathways. When we rightly order our thoughts, the words which are spoken tend to be spoken from the path we are walking!
- Turn away from evil and toward good. This goes along with how we order our thought life. When we choose to think upon things that are wholesome and of "good report", we find ourselves not being as easily enticed into things which are not going to build up one another. There is a deliberate choice required - this is what our writer wants us to see. We don't just happen upon good - we deliberately choose to walk away from evil and toward good. If we are honest here, this is not always our first choice! We might just want to be a little "bad" on occasion - we choose to do what we know to be wrong. Turning away suggests we do more than just divert our gaze - we literally do a 180 and walk in a totally different direction. When I first began my lifestyle change of eating healthy rather than choosing "convenient options", I had to avoid the cafeteria at work. Why? There were too many "convenient options" that just didn't border on the word "healthy" at all! I had to take a different pathway to lunch which didn't include the path to the cafeteria. As you might imagine, when you remove the path, your focus changes!
- Search for peace and seek to maintain it. Seek peace - note, it doesn't say we will be the recipients of peace within all our relationships with mankind. It says WE have to search for it in those relationships. It means we have to learn what 'hills we want to die on' in this lifetime. There are some things we just shouldn't compromise, but there are a whole lot more that we can safely find neutral ground upon which we can stand. For example, I don't have to choose to drink wine, but I also don't need to find fault with someone who enjoys a glass with a meal once in a while. The consumption of that glass of wine isn't going to send them to hell! It isn't my choice, but it also isn't something I need to take issue with, allowing it to become a wedge driven between us over the course of time.
These are very practical words of advice - meant to help us walk well and avoid what otherwise can become very cumbersome problems for us in this lifetime. When we embrace even these three short lifestyle changes, we will be amazed at how much less we are "mopping up" messes in our lives. Just sayin!