I was listening to Don Miller do a book reading today, reading from chapter 19 of Blue Like Jazz, and thinking about ‘love’ and how easy it is to care about others, and not so easy to care about myself. Not that I don’t care about myself as such, because I do, now, but I never used to. But that’s not what I was thinking about, but it is what he was reading about.
I was thinking about the whole concept of the way we treat others, and our egos and the fact that mostly, well in my experience, we do the things we do because we think it’s ok to do them. I mean, who would do stuff, and say things to others if they didn’t think it was ok? Good and bad, but mostly the fact that we don’t consider the mean spirited things we say to be ‘bad,’ because if we did, we wouldn’t say them, or as Christians, these are the things we’d quickly apologise for and repent of.
But our egos are strange creatures, so fragile and really, we all just want to know that we’re okay, and sometimes it means that that comes at the expense of others.
We justify our actions, knowingly, or not, and I suspect for the most part it’s ‘not,’ because we do the things that will get us what we want. Often that’s just whatever it takes to make us feel better, whether that means making us feel right, or important, or better than the other person, or even making sure the other person knows ‘their place’ and they aren’t getting ‘ahead of themselves’. Over here (in Australia) we call it ‘tall poppy syndrome’, we cut them down to size. When really what I suspect we’re doing is making sure they (and/or others) know, that they aren’t any better than us.
Of course when I became a Christian, I was surprised at the amount of times when, instead of cutting me down, people would try to encourage me, then, when I finally started to get a hold on things, then, they’d cut me down, and each time I was completely surprised.
I’m not saying that as a complaint, more as an observation and really, it’s kind of funny, in that sad sort of way. Because what it says is that they really don’t get how precious they are, because, instead of flying, and making the most of everything God has given them (to give away), they’re tugging on the guideropes of the people around them and making sure they don’t fly too high above them. Silly really, when we’re all on the same team. Even sillier when I’ve been guilty of the same thing.
This brought me to another random thought, once again inspired by Mr Miller, and one I think I touched on in my previous random wafflings. The whole concept of the way we use love as a commodity, especially within our Father’s Church, although I’m certain this isn’t something purely endemic in the Church, but it’s there nevertheless.
It works something like this:
Someone agrees with us, or speaks well of us, or appears to like our company and we reciprocate, after all, who doesn’t like someone who agrees with us, or encourages us? These people are so easy to love, to encourage, to bless.
Then there’s another (or perhaps even this very same person) who disagrees with us, or calls us on our actions, or even questions our authority, or perhaps it’s just someone who is different from us, who doesn’t dress like us, or hold the same values as us, or is blatantly offensive in their language or dress or lifestyle, and we withhold love. We freeze them out, or ignore them, or talk about them behind their backs – starting rumours (for prayer of course).
We do this for many reasons, we may not want to encourage the person to be near us, or we may wish to teach them a lesson, or we may even attempt to ‘starve them out’ – if we shut them out long enough, they’ll come around to seeing things our way.
And of course, our heavenly Father knows all about our defective egos and so sent His son to point us in the right direction. His answer to this is recounted in Matthew 5:44-48 when Jesus gave his ‘sermon on the mount’ (or as Dallas Willard puts it ‘discourse on the hill’):
“But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect – just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
And so comes perfection, not self-proclaimed, or dragged out of others but true perfection, perfection that comes from living in His love. The kind of perfection that means we don’t need to hear from others how wonderful we are or listen when they tell us we’re not worth knowing, and we don’t need to reciprocate in like, because we know that the glory and love that our Father pours into us is all we really need to live the kind of life He has for us, the kind that allows us to love freely and unconditionally, the kinda that allows us to pour His love and grace out upon those around us.
The kind of life that frees us up to commit to others in love, regardless of all the junk that life throws at us. Even regardless of the words (both good and bad), because really, what matters most, is how we love each other through ‘this sea of hope and faith and lies’.