Often, when I’m writing posts on relationships, I get stuck. I’ve had one I’ve been working on for awhile now. I keep getting on rabbit trails that I can’t get off of and I think the post has just been too big…you know, like a meal that leaves you WAY too uncomfortable at the end! Or the conversation that gets waylaid when the rabbit trails get to be too many…and the main point gets lost! So I’m going to break it down in bite-sized topics. This bite will be a hard one to swallow for some of you, but it is only the beginning of the story…fortunately!
Relationships are SO complicated! Why is that? Is it because “I am so perfect and everyone around me is a mess and it is awful having to be around all these difficult people?” If you believe that, you need to go to the gospels and read what Jesus had to say frequently to the Pharisees.
As you recoil from my harsh statement, (or mentally want to bash me in the head!) realize that the bolded statement above, reflects a very self-righteous attitude. (Yes, the one starting with “I am so perfect…”) It is an attitude that I am very familiar with. It is my natural bent. I am in recovery. God has been working on me for at least 50 years…more! It has been an incredibly slow process.
SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS TAKES MANY FORMS
You may not say something as overt as the above. It may be more like, “I don’t have a testimony like x. I grew up in a christian home. I don’t have much of a testimony.” (translated, it means “I was a good girl/boy. I didn’t do anything wrong. God didn’t have far to go when He saved me!” ) or “I know I do things wrong, but x is completely obnoxious. There is no way I can be around him/her.” These all reflect self-righteous attitudes!
GAUGING MY RESPONSE TO SIN: MINE AND THAT OF OTHERS!
Another way to tell where you are on the self-righteous scale: What is your response when you hear of a pastor who has fallen in moral sin? A friend who struggles with porn, attractions to their own sex, adulterous thoughts or other inappropriate/sinful behaviors? Is your initial response to condemn them before you even know if what you heard from a third party is true? Is it an “Aha!” response re another pastor because you knew his “theology” wasn’t as good as yours?
Or do you stop to pray for the person, love them or those affected by their sin, reach out to them realizing that you each struggle with sin…just different types…but you are in this struggle together. Are you willing to give of yourself to help this person with accountability, friendship, or whatever is needed because you all live in a horribly broken world?
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT LOVE?
As a child, I memorized. I knew the words and I understood what they meant. However, I didn’t really “get” I Corinthians 13! Truthfully, I still don’t…often. (I included the Message paraphrase in this link because it is extremely edifying!)
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
I Corinthians 13
One section I didn’t get was the section that said, “ If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere.” Or what about the part that says, “If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.” What could be better than being a martyr or understanding all mysteries or having this kind of faith?!!
According to Paul, inspired by God, the one important thing…way more important than all these other great things, is LOVE…agape love. Yes, that is the greek word: agape. It is the word for a specific type of love! The kind that sacrifices itself for another. The kind found in Philippians 2:5-11. When Christ did not grasp the privileges that were His to be grasped as the God of the universe, but humbled Himself, taking on the form of a servant. He was obedient to death on a cross!
How will that play out in your life this week?
Ask God to show you where self-righteousness is alive and well in you this week. It kills relationships, especially our relationship with God, we think we don’t need Him! The only person we are kidding is ourselves.
Are you affected by this problem? How?