Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dead Last

I just watched one of those "I Am Second" videos. Maybe they've popped up in your newsfeed, or you've came across one on Youtube. "I Am Second" is a movement that highlights people from all walks of life who have come to put God first in their lives. The website has videos, links to live chats, instructions on how to st-- never mind, just check it out for yourself; you've got the link. (Just click on the "I Am Second" highlighted in the first line). It's a pretty interesting site; and if you're looking for answers to some questions, or haven't made a commitment to Christ, it can help.

That being said, I would like to correct one thing: I am nowhere near Second. I'm not even Third or Fourth. I am somewhere after God, and after everybody else. This is not a joke, or fake self-deprecation. Nor is it some wild case of poor self-esteem. This is Christ-Esteem (a wonderful phrase used by Don Matzat. His book is available online and I've included the link for that as well. Look how I think of you!) God's Word tells us to live in such a way that we put others before ourselves; this is how I long to live. But it's only the power of His Holy Spirit that helps us accomplish this. Here's how tough it is; here's how high God sets the bar:
" humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3,4
"Count others more significant." Think about that. That means it is more important for your narcissist father-in-law to go off on another one of his self-aggrandizing monologues, than for you to tell him he's not that great. "Look...also to the interests of others." Ok, I'll make sure we both get a turn with the remote. Aah, but there's more:
"... But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave." Matthew 20:26,26
Servants? Slaves? Sounds like I don't get a remote. I'm not sure I like where this is going...
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? ..." Matthew 5:43-48
" Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." Romans 12:14
Sooo, even people who hate me, revile me, and persecute me, I am to love and bless? Yep. Love and bless and serve -- if you want to be great, that is. You see, God blesses even those who hate Him. If we attach His name to who we are, we need to do the same.

Allow me, please, to insert a disclaimer here; I'm sure some of you have already made the leap. Do I think this is justification for, or a teaching that mandates staying in an abusive relationship? Absolutely not. I will say I know some people who say they believe God allowed them to endure a physically or emotionally abusive parent, spouse, or even supervisor for a time. Some experienced change in their abuser, others in themselves. I would always recommend seeking solid biblical counseling in any such situation. Disclaimer over.

Ever heard of "going the extra mile"? Know where that phrase came from? Matthew 5:41:
"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles."
The idea of forcing someone to go with them comes from the "Angari," king's messengers among the Persians, who had the authority to force people to relinquish their goods and/ or be taken into service for the king as long as their need determined. The Romans that were ruling over Jewish lands at the time of Jesus also adhered to this practice; the people who heard this would have immediately understood the  reference. To go the extra mile meant and still means today, to do more than someone requires or expects of you. Christ was always taking this relationship thing to a whole new level.

And I'll tell you right now, from personal experience, this is impossible to do right without God. I am a compassionate person -- always have been. But when I act on that compassion without God directing me, enabling me to do it? Bad news. What happens if they get comfortable and never learn to stand on their own two feet? What happens if they take more than I can give? What happens if they don't appreciate it? If I've done it in my own strength, acting on my own compassion, I'm gonna be pissed! I'm going to want restitution. I might even refuse to help anyone again! But if I work for the Lord, give all He tells me to give, count on Him to supply me with the resources I need to get through this? His is the victory.

In Christ alone, I long to be nowhere close to Second.

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