Thursday, May 20, 2010

Some Final Instructions from Romans 12

One summer day, I was dropping Christine off for Vacation Bible School.  We were within sight of the church when a woman pulled her car across my lane as she was turning out of a nearby shopping center.  She had plenty of room to move completely into the left turn lane and out of mine; I brought that to her attention with a tap on the horn.  Nothing.  So, I stuck my head out of the window and asked -- really I did, I asked her to clear my lane.  Well, this little grey-haired woman sitting somewhere beneath the steering wheel of her terrestrial pontoon let loose this stream of obscenities and finger salutes I could not believe!  I got the gist -- NO!  Huh?  This woman for no apparent reason other than meanness refused to move!  Talk about frustration!  And her language!  What was that all about?  In front of my child?!  I was speechless -- no, really; I dropped Christine off and went about the rest of my errands.  Of course, who do I run into at the market -- well, not literally, though I would have liked to -- Potty Mouth!  And, believe it or not, she was singing church hymns as she pushed her cart along!  I've seen her more than once since that day, and each time that same hateful feeling rises from within, accompanied by the same thoughts, "So mean, so rude, hypocrite!"  I want to...  I think about... but I give myself the What Would Jesus Do speech and try to put it out of my mind.

Do you know this is not what Christ expects from us?  Romans 12:14 says to bless those who persecute us.  Should I smile broadly and wish her a fabulous day?  Nope, not that either, unless I really mean it.  God wants us to be genuine, Romans 12:9.  We should love others genuinely, even those who persecute us.  Don't we want the best for those we love?  Don't we pray God's blessings on them?  We should feel no differently toward the folks who hate us.  Matthew 5:38-46 tells us that Jesus wants us to love even in the most difficult situations, and says there will be no standing ovations for those who love only those they like.  That means, bless your enemies -- not just hold your tongue, not just avoid them at all costs, but pray for God's love to so fill your life that you see them as He does, and can genuinely pray for His blessings upon their lives.

I have stayed up all night crying with friends who have lost pets, broken up with complete losers, or didn't make the college cheer squad.  I know another woman who reads about the crack-smoking mom crying because her baby is sick with AIDS, sees the pregnant teen hopeless because she can't find a job without her high school diploma, and listens to the pleas of a convicted murderer as he begs a jury to let him live; she shakes her head and sucks her teeth in disgust.  This woman and I not only live in the same house, but we inhabit the same body!  I share emotion (no matter how trivial) with those I like, much more readily than I empathize with those I dislike, don't even know, have no desire to know, would rather judge, believe deserve judgment, are different from me...  Romans 12:15-21 has some very direct words for me.  "Share others joys and sorrows; live in peace and harmony with others.  Don't think so much of yourself -- it leads to cliques, castes and judgments that are not only unjust, but were never yours to make!  Do what God asks of you, and He will take care of the rest." 

When we let the cares and evils in this world, our own sinful natures, and society's philosophies and prejudices interfere with God's love in our lives, He cannot complete His work in us and we cannot be who He wants us to be.  By holding my tongue and not reacting to Potty Mouth, I didn't remove that feeling of "want to."  No amount of volunteering at the local women's shelter will change my haughty attitude or lack of empathy -- they may even get worse.  But God can change me.  When love, genuine Love is the motivating force behind everything I think, say or do -- I will change.  And so can you!

"Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." -- 1 John 4:8
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