Thursday, June 7, 2018

Be one - get one

Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing. Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here's what you do: say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you're worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what he's asked; but he turns his back on those who do evil things. (I Peter 3:8-12)

Herein we find a very long list of character traits that we are to exhibit as the children of God - some of them a little bit hard for us to actually 'implement' in our lives, but which we are not given any lee-way. Living in such a manner actually encourages God's blessing in our lives - and it appears that it actually opens up a lot of blessing into the lives of others, as well. God's goal is to open us up to living in such a manner, bringing delight to his heart, and in turn, delighting us with the blessing of his presence, constant care, and protection in our lives. In the end, we reap huge benefit, but so do those around us. These character traits aren't just for our own good - they are to help us be better people and in turn, we all become better together.

Why does the first one to 'top the list' have to be to be agreeable? When we live in a manner that is compatible with the character of Christ, we are agreeable - agreeable isn't easy, but it is possible when Christ is at the core of our every choice and action. We are accommodating of others, gracious, and harmonious in our responses. Why is this so important? Because it reflects the very grace of God to others, and in turn, it draws others to us - agreeable people are like magnets. They never lack for friends because others like to be friends with them.

Being sympathetic - affectionate, appreciative, considerate, and understanding of what the other person is going through hits the list second. If your main focus is to be agreeable by keeping Christ at the center of all your actions, it will be easier to be considerate toward others. God wants us to learn to see life through the other person's eyes, instead of judging them from our vantage point in life. This engages us with their needs and better focuses us on how to pray for them, helping them through their time of need. There is no greater form of 'sympathy' than to identify with the needs of another and then take their needs before the Lord until you see that need being met through his grace and help.

Be loving and compassionate - this reflects a responsiveness on our part because love and compassion are action words. Loving and compassionate people are charitable in their response - kind, considerate, and accommodating. Love and compassion flow from being agreeable and learning to identify with the needs of others. In order to truly identify with the needs of others and then to develop a consistently loving response to those needs, one needs to add the trait of being humble - being courteously respectful of others in every way. No need to pretend you are important here, my friends - God honors the life that is real, genuine, and unassuming. A life that is humble is genuine - there is a transparency that does not assume any of us have it all together, but that we are willing to be opened up before others.

No retaliation comes next in the 'list' - the ability to not return like for like. It is quite easy to strike out when we have been struck first. It is quite another things to withhold angry response, returning evil with good. This comes at about the middle of the list for a reason. When we are learning to be reflective of the graciousness of a holy God, considerate of others, understanding of their vantage point in life, it is easier to NOT retaliate when they strike out. These traits build upon each other - there is first a change of heart that begins to affect how we interpret life (how we think), followed by a change of action (how we respond). Similarly, we are to not have sharp-tongued sarcasm - because sarcasm is caustic. It destroys the self-worth of another - rarely does it do much to build one up. It is usually directed from a heart that has little understanding of being charitable (kind and considerate), one that is struggling with pride (wanting to cover up our own faults by pointing out another's), etc. God wants his kids to be known for their gentle answer, truthfulness, and their compassionate embracing of each other - including their faults and failures.

The promise to us is that God looks well on those that are working to allow these traits to become part of who we are - he opens the doors of blessing in our lives. He turns a hearing ear to the heart that wants to live in such a manner - it honors him and brings his great joy. These are tougher traits to develop than we imagine - yet, with the help of God's Spirit resident within us, they are entirely possible character qualities that we can have worked into the fiber of our being. Today is a new day. Give it to God and see what he will do with it! Just sayin!