God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? "Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. "Don't hurt your friend, don't blame your neighbor; despise the despicable. "Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. "You'll never get blacklisted if you live like this." (Psalm 15:1-5 MSG)
Here we find a question that had probably been niggling in the back of some of our minds, maybe even for a lot longer than we'd like to admit. The question? How does someone get welcomed into God's presence? In turn, God gives us a list of fourteen characteristics that "stand out" in a man's character that makes that man "stand out" in God's eyes. As we briefly look at each, let us keep in mind that God welcomes ALL of us, speaks to all of us in plain ways, and wants each of us to have a close and personal relationship with him. These characteristics aren't 'rules' for keeping as much as they are the things God wants each of us to develop in our lives that make in increasingly easier to nuzzle up close to him and find comfort in his arms.
- Walk straight - suggests that there is movement in your life - you are not stagnant in your walk. The walk that God desires, and which will benefit us the most, is characterized by straightness - it has directed purpose, a specific aim in mind. That aim is God's best in our lives - not just mediocrity, but his best.
- Act right - when our walk is directed purposefully toward the things God desires of each of us, it becomes easier to have our actions be affected by the very goal we are directed toward. Action is always affected by the aim of our heart and mind - if it is rightly focused on God, we tend to act in accordance with his love and grace - any other aim or focus will probably amount to a whole lot of bumbled steps along the way.
- Tell the truth - look at the progression here. First, your aim in life needs to be Christ-centered. Then, your choice of action is affected by the fact that Christ is at the center and self is no longer the main object of our satisfaction. In turn, we see our speech affected. The words we speak take on meaning and become life-giving. That is what truth is - it is a well-spring of life to those that hear it, but to hear, one needs to be within hearing distance!
- Don't hurt your friends - did you know that one of the easiest ways we hurt each other is in the carelessness of our words? Our actions and our words can both hurt, but most people will be quick to tell you that words cut deeply. Actions may be more easily forgiven, while words are not quickly forgotten. Words can make a bigger impact that we might imagine - I wonder if this is why God gave us his 'words' within scripture?
- Don't blame your neighbor - in other words, own up to your behavior and don't shift blame to others. It is easy to blame-shift, but it takes a strength of character to say, "It was me; I had a part in that outcome." It is even much harder to say, "I own the outcome".
- Despise the despicable - those things we describe as mean, or vile things are to be despised. It is easier to despise a "scumbag", but a little more challenging to despise the sin that motivates the man to act as he does. It is never God's intent that we throw the sinner out with the sin - we are to embrace the sinner, and despise the sin. We sometimes get this mixed up in our minds and reject both!
- Keep your word even when it costs you - and it WILL cost you! We use our words sometimes a little too freely and promise what we really did not intend to do later on. God asks us to only promise what we can provide - those things within our power, ability, and will to do. Words like, "I will NEVER...." are rarely achievable - but they are spoken way too frequently. We need to learn to be realistic in our commitments - both to God and to others. In so doing, it is easier to keep our words.
- Make an honest living - not to imply that everyone needs to have a job out in the community, but we all have a contribution that is to be made to society, family, and local community. Whatever that is, we need to engage in it with a focus on contributing what we are capable of contributing. God blesses each contribution when it is made with a focus on him first and others second.
- Don't take a bribe - this really goes hand in hand with making an honest living. Honesty and upright conduct should be the hallmarks of all we engage in.