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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

L O V E and some other controversial stuff.

That word...LOVE...probably conjures up all kinds of images and feelings.

Cupid with his bow.

Valentines and boxes of chocolate.

Weddings.

Babies.

Parents and children.

Warm, soft, cuddly, wrapped-up-in-a-cashmere-blanket-watching-the-sun-rise kind of thoughts.

How many of us automatically think of Christians?

Does 'Christian' even register as a blip on your "Love" radar?

When you think of God what is your first thought?

Is it love?

Or is it judgment? Vengeance? Anger? Wrath? Punishment? Mercy? Forgiveness?

Do you picture George Burns waving around his cigar? Do you see Morgan Freeman looking down dubiously at mankind? Alanis Morrisette? Charleton Heston? Rob Zombie?

When you think of Jesus, what do you think of?

A frail, blonde-haired, blue eyed man? A burly Middle Eastern carpenter? Jim Caviezel? That hottie who just played Jesus in the History Channel's miniseries The Bible?

I ask because I just read an excellent article posted by a friend on Facebook. Click HERE to read it for yourself.

This article, was just one of MANY confirmations that my thinking needed a HUGE makeover. My last post mentioned how God has been rocking my world. He has and it has been amazing. And scary.

To hold tight to convictions that have been shaped by one's past, one's experiences, one's perceptions, lessons taught by others...well, it is difficult to let those go. Even when you can plainly see the flaws in that manner of thinking.

It's like the baby's diaper analogy.

Oh, you've never heard it?

It goes like this...why does a baby not want to have his soiled diaper changed?

Because it's warm and it's mine.

That sounded a lot better when I heard Dave Ramsey share it. :)

Anyway...getting down to brass tacks here...it's hard to let go of what we know for what we don't. Sometimes living with the pain or discomfort of what we know is easier than the fear associated with the unknown.

But it was just too obvious to me that what I believed and how I was acting and thinking was from the gospel of Mandy. Sure, it was based on Jesus' teachings, but it was more than sprinkled with Mandy-isms.

For starters, what person do you know will fall to their knees in praise or repentance because of someone wagging their finger in that person's face, condemning them to hell if they don't repent?

Who will profess undying love to Jesus based on another's proclamation that the way they live/eat/believe/worship is wrong/blasphemous/an abomination/shameful? Even if the accuser is right?

I remember sitting with a woman many years ago when I was a freshman in high school (and knew it all, naturally). Somehow abortion came up and she asked me what I felt about it. I shared with her all of my wisdom on the subject as she listened. And I can't stress enough the "listened" part. When I finished tying my stance up with a bow, she said, "do you mind if I ask you a question?"

Of course, I said no, I didn't mind.

And then she went on to BLOW MY MIND by presenting to me a way of thinking that I had never even considered before.

Bam. Mind Blown.

And *like that* I have never looked back.

It made sense what she said. It clicked.

Here is the formula that I believe works:

*Have a relationship with someone (usually beyond acquaintance)
*Listen--actively listen-- when someone shares their views
*Reserve judgment
*Keep emotions in check
*Ask permission before sharing your view
*Share your view with respect and humility and love
*Extend the grace to the other person to make their own decision and hold their own opinion--even if it is still in opposition to yours.

That last one is really hard for me.

Especially if I am passionately, positively, absolutely certain that the other person's view is not in line with God's. And ESPECIALLY when I am speaking to someone I care about deeply.

But God is working on me with that. He's teaching me that rejection is not of me personally. It's of God. He also reminds me that there are plenty of areas in my life where I still suck. (That's not the word He uses, per se...)

I have had several things "fall into my lap" over the past couple of weeks.

A friend posted to my timeline on Facebook about a Bible study she was doing and how the author reminded her of me. I ran to check out this obviously fabulous woman...and came away refreshed and amazed at such a phenomenal approach to sharing God. You can read about it by clicking HERE.

Then, Natalie at Mommy on Fire blew me away with her post about Gay Marriage.

And I was moved. And convicted. That we are to live in love.

Okay...so what does that mean? Do we start wearing birkenstocks, dread locks, and live off the land? Does that mean I passively sit back while this world sinks deeper into the depravity and immorality it has been hurtling towards for generations? Do I water down the Truth in an effort to gain friends or someone's confidence? To avoid hurting feelings or ruffling feathers?

No, I don't believe that.

Please hear me. I know there are some who may walk away from this post thinking I am going soft, compromising the Truth, or being a fence-sitter.

But in order to figure this whole thing out (because, maddeningly, God will often place these little nuggets on my heart and then allow me to figure out the details on my own), I had to look at  the Word.

And this could be a lifetime post because there is an OVERABUNDANCE that I am learning here...

What is Love?

I think of 1 Corinthians 13...

Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I'll tell you....as I was typing those I have to admit that I NEVER remember reading the one that says "it does not dishonor others". The Message version is "Doesn't force itself on others."

Mind. Blown. Again.

Seriously....the whole reason I have started this thought-shifting journey is because I see how we ("we" being most Christians) tend to treat others who we feel are leading a sinful lifestyle.

I can guarantee you that I almost NEVER operate according to 1 Corinthians 13.

In fact, the opposite could not be more true of me most times.

And while it was exciting...it put me in kind of a cold, sweaty panic. Have I really been so blind to what is in the Bible that I have lived 30 *muffling my voice with my hand over my mouth* years believing something completely CONTRARY to what God said?

And how many people have I turned off and turned away because of my inappropriate reactions and thoughts?

Let's not even discuss the absolute and bold-faced hypocrisy that was my life as I was holding such defining and condemning thoughts of others. I am ashamed. I am sad. I am embarrassed. And I am positively flabbergasted that I didn't see it sooner.

And then I became more flabbergasted at all the ways God has confirmed that I do, indeed, need to change the way I think. And live. And love.

Joe and I had a long conversation about the whole Gay Marriage issue and struggled for a few days with how we (individually) felt about it. It was funny, because we were BOTH mulling this over without the other knowing what we were thinking. When I brought it up one night, we discovered that we felt exactly the same way!

Then...as I was laying down to bed the other night, I read the Bible App I have on my phone. I hit the button to choose what book I wanted to read and was taken to Ephesians, for some odd reason. The title caught my eye and I read it:

Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Emphasis mine)

I was--again--beside myself at the amazing ways God can speak to me using His Word.

I started to think more about this...what exactly does living a life of love look  like? Does it mean I turn a blind eye to sin? Continue on like business-as-usual with my friends and relatives despite seeing things they are doing that are clearly outside of Christ's will? Do I say something? Don't I?

As I was cleaning today the story of the Good Samaritan came to me. Jesus told that parable in response to being asked "If we're supposed to 'love our neighbor like ourselves', who is our neighbor?"

Not missing a beat, Jesus told this story of the scourge of the neighborhood, so-to-speak--the Samaritan--being the ONLY one to help the man wounded on the side of the road. 2 very prominent men passed by, both active in the church, and both being careful to walk on the other side of the road, and ignored this bleeding and wounded man. It was the Samaritan who stopped to help. The people who the Jews didn't talk to because well, they were from the other side of the tracks.

I take that to mean the Samaritan either wasn't aware of or, more likely, wasn't bound by man-made rules about who could and should help whom. He was seemingly driven by a sense to help. And to love. Regardless of what sins the wounded man had committed or what the wounded man thought of the Samaritan.

For all that Samaritan knew, the wounded man could have been the head of the committee to ban Samaritans from the planet and was leading a coalition to exterminate all Samaritans from earth.

Didn't matter. The point Jesus was making was: the men you would have THOUGHT would help--the prominent and "Godly" men--did not. They passed by while carefully avoiding someone desperately in need.

Like Jen Hatmaker (the fabulous author mentioned in the beginning) said in one of her posts, I certainly wouldn't want someone waving a sign at me on my front lawn or shouting that I am an over-weight, self-absorbed, sinner who over-indulges in many things and says the "F" word. Are all those things true?

Sadly, yes. And then some.

Is that the surefire way to get me to turn away from those things? Maybe outwardly, for a time to avoid being shamed. But the real way for me to make those changes starts and ends with God. With Jesus. With changing my heart.

I fear that today we have confused sharing the gospel with a boxing match or lobbing a molotov cocktail.

When I would see issues that are hot-button and emotional being supported by my friends and family--issues that I was clearly on the other side of--I got angry.

Angry.

Not sad or concerned or convicted to pray.

Angry.

And then I got vicious.

And maybe not to their faces, but certainly the awful, venomous thoughts ricocheted through my mind over and over again.

I detailed their every short-coming and fault. I railed about their obvious lack of relationship with God. I gloried that I was not in the same mindset as they were.

Even though this rarely left my thoughts and traveled to someone else's ear, it was a cancer, eating away at me.

I was angry at someone the other day and I was berating them (again, in my head) saying, "I'm so SICK of suffering because of your inadequacies!"

And I saw it...in my mind...Jesus hanging on the cross. Beaten. Bloody. And I "saw" Him look me in the eye and say, "I'm so sick of suffering because of your inadequacies."

Yeah.

Once again--put in my place.

Does Christ speak to us that way? No. Could He? Without a doubt.

My friend Natalie said in a more recent post that it wasn't nails that held Jesus to the cross. It was Love.

And it's THAT kind of love that I want to possess and model.

Not the kind that judges and condemns.

The kind that says, "Hey...I'm a sinner. The ONLY thing I have to be excited about is that I am saved. Join me! It's an open invitation!"

And then allows the grace to let the other person make his decision.

I will never be able to bully someone into the kingdom.

My job is to Love.

Share the gospel. Stand firm in my convictions (which are God's convictions) and let the Holy Spirit take over from there. After all, it's the Holy Spirit who is the "Closer" of these relationships. I'm merely the messenger.

*I purposely did not state my views on topics above in an effort to avoid inappropriate debate. I am open to discussion, for sure. If you'd like to talk more about these or any other issues, feel free to email me at mandypmommyof4 {at} yahoo {dot} com. I am an open book...but I find it's better to engage in discussion more one-on-one than through an open forum like this one where trolls can come simply to hurl their flaming arrows and then move on after wrecking your day. :)


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