Friday, November 23, 2018

Slinging a little mud

Have you ever had a little mud slung your way? I don't mean the literal stuff, like when we were kids after a rain storm and some good puddles formed the best playgrounds of a lifetime. I mean the kind that comes your way in the form of words intended to belittle or berate you. The mud-slinging might come from a source you know well, or from sources you know very little about. Sometimes it comes from those with an obviously viscous intent, while others may sling it just a little bit unconsciously, not really realizing the impact of their words. Regardless of the source, it can be difficult to endure.

If with heart and soul you’re doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you’re still better off. Don’t give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They’ll end up realizing that they’re the ones who need a bath. It’s better to suffer for doing good, if that’s what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.  1 Peter 3:18 MSG

If with heart and soul you're living as you have been instructed in the Word of God and in those times when God speaks deeply into your heart, then you are doing well. You might not always make the right choices, but you take quick steps to rectify it when you don't - quickly acknowledging it, asking God's forgiveness, and seeking to learn from those missteps. This kind of living doesn't make you above attack - it might even make you a little bit more of a target than you might think. People don't understand those who make choices that are different from theirs at times. They have a hard time with consistency themselves, so they find fault with others that seem to 'have it all together'. 

The object of our lesson today is our conscience. God gave us this little 'built-in monitor' because he knew we'd face hard choices - choices that need some type of 'governor' to help guide the actions that follow. Conscience is subject to change, though. If we continually ignore it, we find the 'monitor' still exists, it just 'goes off' a little less over the course of time. That might mean we find ourselves in a place where our conscience would have once brought immediate conviction - helping us to determine the direction as 'wrong' for us to take - but now it becomes kind of common-place for us to pursue that direction without any feelings of remorse or regret.

Conscience must be maintained. It must be enlightened each and every day by spending even just a little bit of time alone with God and in his Word. These two simple actions go a long, long way toward maintaining the integrity of our conscience. In fact, these actions also help to develop a more 'acute' conscience - we become more aware of how certain actions lead to compromise or failure in our lives. The conscience is not the only 'monitor' over our lives - we also have the Holy Spirit of God resident within us. These 'dual-monitors' kind of work simultaneously - but where our conscience may fail us on occasion - the Holy Spirit of God will not!

We all want to make right choices. I don't think any of us has chosen to be rebellious because we just woke up one day and determined to go from being righteous to being totally rebellious. Rebellion starts with one choice. Once we ignore the conscience, even once, we set a new precedent in our minds and emotions. We might not like it, but that compromise alters the future choices we will make unless we take that compromise to God and ask for his help to 're-tune' the monitor of our conscience. To live above 'mud-slinging' is one thing - to be deserving of that mud-slinging is quite another!

Conscience may not get much attention from the pulpit these days, but if we are honest here, the conscience is that one thing which helps us to acknowledge our missteps. We find ourselves always making adjustments to our course because our conscience is somehow alerting us to the danger within the choices we are making. We don't want to rely upon it solely, but when we do so in combination with the help of the Holy Spirit, the clarity that comes when we spend time alone with God, and the power of God's Word getting into our lives, we find there is an integrity built into our lives that others just may not understand. That can make us an object of a little 'unfair' mud-slinging on occasion, but I'd rather have you sling mud and me not deserve it than to be so mired in the mud that I never notice you are slinging it in the first place! Just sayin!