Two men are working in the grounds of a large mansion house and both appear to be getting on well with the job at hand; however outward appearances can be deceptive. One of the workers really appreciates having a job in a day and age when good jobs have become scarce. The other worker doesn’t appreciate his job and constantly goes on about rich people living in mansions and his belief that he should be paid more money. Who do you think finds their work the easiest?
Attitudes have a big influence on our lives and wrong attitudes can leave us crippled even in the best of circumstances. In contrast to this, a good attitude to life leaves us open to blessing from God and we are able to grow in strength, even in the worst of situations.
Attitudes arise from a combination of how we view life, how we think about life and the subsequent feelings that then arise from this. For example if a person wrongly assumes that two work colleagues had been gossiping about them it could affect the way they think and the way they feel. He or she could become cold and distant or erupt in anger. Over a period of time this, when left, unaddressed, forms a strong attitude towards the now ex-colleagues. Ironically the initial thought pattern: “They have been gossiping about me,” was wrong, yet the damage has now been done and cemented in the psyche.
The way we view, think and feel about life in general or those around us often produces a stance, a predisposition that can produce an emotional response to life that we become so used to we don’t even realise that it is there – it’s just part of who we are, so to speak. In reality it is not really part of who we are meant to be – it is what we have become and there is a need to change.
Attitudes that often remain hidden can suddenly surface when we are faced with certain situations. For example, in Luke 9:51-55, we read of the disciples asking Jesus if they should call down fire on a Samaritan village that had not welcomed them. Their thoughts and feelings towards Samaritans were exposed in their quickness to judge the village and in response Jesus rebukes them.
Further on in Luke’s gospel we come across the story of a rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23) who approached Jesus. He wanted to know what he needed to do to gain eternal life – the quality and power of the life he was seeing in Jesus. This man had tried everything he could to receive this power in living, yet was now even more aware of the truth: he did not have the strength or power to gain it. In replying, Jesus points out that it was the young ruler’s attitude to money that was preventing him from finding life it all its fullness. Although he worked hard in many areas of life and was commended for doing so, the failure to deal with his attitude to finance meant that he was trapped. Money had become his security and he was not prepared to feel vulnerable.
God reaches out to people
In Luke 10:5ff we find Jesus telling His disciples to go out without money, a bag, or sandals and preach that the Kingdom of God was near. If they were not accepted when entering a home, they had to leave and shake the dust from their feet, (treat the homeowners as unbelievers).
God looks after His people, even preparing a table for them before their enemies (Ps 23), and He expected all in Israel to reach out to others in the same way. In Jesus’ day everyone lived at a time where mutual help and support was absolutely necessary and expected. For example, all communities were expected to provide food for the disciples of a rabbi. Those who were not prepared to receive the disciples were, in doing so, ignoring the most basic rules of hospitality in their community and were not likely to listen to anything they had to say. They had an attitude that closed the door to blessing – to a kingdom that was within their grasp due to the grace and mercy of God.
“…The Kingdom of God is near…”
In the above verse the Hebrew word Jesus uses for ‘near,’ (qarab), is the same one used in Isaiah 8:3 to speak of Isaiah being near his wife – that is ‘knowing’ his wife who then conceived. From this we see that the word ‘near’ speaks of closeness and intimacy with the desire to bless.
God reaches out to us all yet in our hearts and minds we can sometimes be a million miles away with wrong attitudes imprisoning the very life we seek to protect. Yet the way we view things around us is a choice if we are prepared to think about it. For example, I remember reading about a prisoner in Auschwitz who had lost his home, his friends, his family and even the clothes he stood in. Yet, as he stood naked and vulnerable before the prison guards, he realised that he still had a choice to make. He could choose not to hate those in front of him. He could choose not to stoop to their level and in this way could learn to overcome. In doing this he had an attitude that allowed him some control over where life is lived first and foremost (in the heart and mind), even though he had no control over the events surrounding him.
Dr Victor Frankl, the Austrian Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, once said that everything can be taken away from a man or woman, but the last of human freedoms – one’s attitude towards all that is happening - is often given away by self.
Breaking down wrong attitudes – the power of friendship
In the 1936 Olympics, Jesse Owens won four gold medals at a time when Nazi Germany was seeking to assert Aryan supremacy; yet in the Long Jump Jesse failed at his first two attempts. A German competitor, Luz Long spoke with him and gave some advice that enabled Owens to break the Olympic record and win his second gold. On winning, the first person to congratulate him was Luz Long, a man he would never see again. In writing about Long’s words of encouragement Owens later said, “You could melt down all the medals and cups I have, and they wouldn’t be plating on the 24-carat friendship I felt for Luz Long.”
At the time of Christ many in Israel felt that God was distant and unapproachable, due to the teaching and actions of the religious ruling class and the oppressive nature of the Roman Empire. Yet, in Jesus’ words and actions the tax collector, sinner, and those marginalised by society, came to see what God was really like. In the presence of the One who offered friendship and acceptance men and women found hope. Barriers then began to come down as they saw, in Jesus, a power and authority that did not write them off.
“I think of myself as the most wretched of men, stinking and full of sores, who has committed all sorts of crimes against his king. Overcome with remorse, I confess to Him all my wickedness; asking His forgiveness, I let myself drop into His hands that he might do what he please with me. But this King, filled with goodness and mercy, instead of punishing me, hugs me lovingly, tells me to sit down at his table, passes the food to me with his own hands, and gives me the keys to all His treasures. He talks with me and delights Himself in me constantly, in a thousand and one ways, treating me entirely as though I were His favourite. He forgives my sins, and He frees me from the bad habits that bother me the most; I beg Him to change me so that I will be more like His own heart. The weaker I am and the more unworthy I feel, the more God shows His love to me.”
Taken from, ‘The Practice and Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence.
As Paul states, when writing to the Ephesian church, we have been taught to put off old ways and to be made new in the attitude of our minds, and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:20-24).
Jesus came to make men whole
Henry Ford always sought to encourage people and often took on workers that others would not have considered. He routinely hired the disabled and in 1919 nearly 20% of his workforce had some sort of disability. Henry did not simply look at what a person could not do. He encouraged them and showed them what they could do.
In Jesus we do not find an optimist or a pessimist but the One who sees all things as they really are and has come to make us whole. He is the author of the most powerful rebuilding programme that has ever taken place, and although He can reach thousands in one go, we find Him coming alongside people, one by one with a message of love and reconciliation and in this we see God’s attitude towards sinners. For example, in Jesus’ call to Matthew the tax collector and His willingness to fellowship with Zacchaeus; two men were able to experience something of God’s unconditional love, possibly for the first time.
Both Matthew and Zacchaeus had been reaping the fruit of their own actions, and were, understandably, ostracised by many. But how would these men find the opportunity to change in a community that often wrote off the whole person rather than loving the sinner and hating the sin? Who would they go to?
Jesus does not overlook the sin, yet neither does He overlook the sinner and He knew that a genuine change of heart would come about through the challenge of love and not words of condemnation. As John 3:17 reads, “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” and the truth in these words can be seen in looking at how Jesus reached out to those around Him. Take, for example, the prostitute, the Centurion’s servant, or the woman caught in adultery. Then think of Jesus preparing a meal, and eating with struggling disciples after His resurrection (John 21:12). In acting this way Jesus was showing them they were loved (despite having deserted Him at His time of need), since eating a meal with others in the Ancient Near East speaks of friendship and acceptance. Whilst the disciples had issues to deal with, one thing is certain: they were not written off. God always wants fellowship with His children.
“Jesus did not demand moral perfection to gain God’s approval; He offered perfect reconciliation based upon his sacrifice.”
Dr D. Clossan, director of Probe Ministries.
Throughout His life we see Jesus’ attitude to people: He had great compassion for them. Yet despite all that we see Jesus doing, there were many who had a problem with Jesus – and in the main they were the good religious people of the day.
Interestingly, the people Jesus had most difficulty with on many occasions were some of the Pharisees and Sadducees. These people sought to be morally upright, and to live their lives to the highest possible level as a means of justifying a place in the kingdom of God. Yet it was some of these very Pharisees and Sadducees – ordinary, honest and good people - who would eventually stand against Jesus.
Although many of the religious rulers of Jesus’ day knew how to hate sin, it appears that some had lost sight of the call to love the sinner, this often having great repercussions on those around them. Instead of being loved, nurtured and encouraged, people were sometimes pushed aside, looked down on and judged, as is sometimes the case in churches today.
A number of well-known atheists (e.g. Bertrand Russell) were brought up with some sort of Christian background and, in looking at what they had to say, we find a few common denominators. For example, some of these men and women felt absolutely worthless and as if they could never attain Christian standards let alone be able to make it. Then there were those who lived in households devoid of love, where they were often threatened with hell and damnation. The fruit of this upbringing was that many turned to atheism, little realising that what they experienced was not representative of the truth.
Good people can do a lot of harm when goodness is simply a code to live by, or a list of do’s and don’ts. Apart from this many good people end up struggling with their own lives as well, not seeing that their attitude to others is wrong, and that this could be their main problem and not those around them. To put it simply, there can be a lot of badness in our goodness.
Excuses that good people can make
Once upon a time there was a man whose wife was an alcoholic. People were sympathetic towards him although he was known to be a very bitter and judgemental man who rarely saw any good in anyone. But then something amazing happened and his wife gave up alcohol as she started putting her life back together. Yet this was not the only amazing thing to be seen in the household. What was also seen was that this bitter and judgemental husband was still bitter and judgemental and he’d simply been using her problem to justify the way he acted. Sometimes we become so preoccupied with what is wrong with the world and those around us that we fail to see that we’ve begun to blame others for our wrong attitudes instead of taking responsibility for them ourselves.
If we are honest, it is sometimes easier to make an excuse rather than confront a problem and easier to have a go at someone than get alongside them. It is easier to measure a person’s life to see if they are standing as we think they should stand, rather than stooping down in order to lift them up. It is also easier to make a moral judgment than it is to love a person. Why? Because confronting problems, getting alongside others, lifting them up and loving a person involves giving self and this takes time and energy, whilst judging someone takes only a few seconds and is often used to justify avoiding them or acting the way we do.
The snap-judgements that many religious people made concerning others in Jesus day is one of the reasons He spoke of them as being like whitewashed tombs; beautiful on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones (Matt 23:37).
It does not take a spiritual genius to realise that murder, rape, theft, etc are harmful and destructive. However, what appears to be not so obvious to some is that there is badness in those who simply point out the faults of others or pick up on them all the time. In Jesus’ day these people often ended up being the ones who were shocked at what he was doing when it came to doing things like eating with sinners for example. These people were the ones who just could not get on with Him, and yet believed they were sold out for God!
Jesus was not against goodness, but what goodness had become in the hands of well-meaning people. In the hands of man ‘goodness’ had become shallow, empty, sometimes selfish and also constricting. From this we see just how easy it is for good people to hide their light under a bushel (Matthew 5:14-16).
In contrast to this, those led by the Spirit are to separate the sin from the sinner and express a genuine interest and concern for all others, regardless of background.
The fruit of goodness
We can know our doctrine and quote dozens of verses, yet in reality this may reveal nothing more than a good memory. Yet the real fruit of our knowing – of our experience with God - is actually seen in how we live our lives.
A recent book I purchased contained a small leaflet written by the author and titled, “Christian Education – The World’s Real Hope” and one of the quotes in the leaflet brings the above point home.
“It is not what we do or say that really matters, but what we are. That is the essential triumph or tragedy of parenthood.”
Dr Oswald Schwarz, ‘Manhood in the Making.’
People were attracted to Jesus because they saw that He loved them, and in so doing they came to understand love. Surely then, this is the way we are going to be able to speak to others first and foremost – in the giving of self for the blessing of others. In both word and actions we are to reveal that everyone is important to God. Our heavenly Father sees a fallen sparrow (Matthew 10:29-31), knows the nature and composition of the solar system (Psalm 147:4) and reaches out to all with the offer of salvation (John 3:16, 17). He is the One who has stooped low in loving-kindness to lift us up.
“Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”
D. Augsburger, in ‘Caring Enough To Forgive.’ Page 5.
In looking at how Jesus dealt with the wrong views that people held, we see that he didn’t do so by arguing His corner or simply saying, “You are wrong.” So how did He challenge them?
Jesus often dealt with contentious people by putting another vision alongside the one that they had. For example, when some of the good teachers of the law judged Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them, Jesus used the opportunity to tell them parables about lost sheep, a lost coin and the love of a Father for his wayward sons (Luke 15:1-31).
Jesus always came alongside people, and the impression He left them with was not that of a judgemental person out to prove Himself right. The impression He left on others was one of power and love combined and expressed through grace, compassion and mercy. This then, is how we are called to live and through the indwelling of the Spirit we can begin to give out the love we are loved with (Gal 5:22-23) and not just reveal a negative attitude to everything around us that we don’t like.
“We should not be like the man who joined a monastery in which the monks were allowed to speak only two words every seven years. After the first seven years had passed, the new initiate met with the abbot who asked him, “Well, what are your two words?” The monk replied, “Food’s bad.” After the next seven years the monk was again asked for two words. He replied, “Bed’s hard.” Seven years later he was again before the Abbot and simply said, “I quit.” The point of the story: Don’t be known as a person whose only words are negative.”
Adapted from J. Mason in, ‘An Enemy Called Average’ page 36.
Goodness combined with godliness
Jesus was not against goodness, but against what it had been turned into in the thinking of many around Him. In many respects, goodness had become shallow, empty and restrictive and little more than a moral code which took the place of a real relationship with God. Neglecting the need for personal fellowship with our Father is like expecting a flower to appear when we haven’t put a seed in the soil, or a car to start without any fuel in the tank – only much worse.
The Holy Spirit is within our lives to help us live out what we find to be true in our relationship with God. He will not prop up our stained and potted version of life, because He has come to give abundant life.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
God is not willing to empower my version of life, yet will give all I need to come more fully into His. Likewise, standing in the power of God means that I am for the sinner and against the sin – and learn how to make that distinction.
When we see things going wrong in the lives of others, we may see sin; but we should also be looking at the whole person and see the root of the problem. In ‘attacking’ the fruit of sin, we often fail to look at the root, which often contributes to the situation, yet in no way justifies it.
Actions and reactions
Once upon a time there was a man whose seventeen-year-old son had just passed his driving test. Over the following months he was always borrowing the car, and sometimes drove too fast. One day he turns into his father’s driveway too quickly, and hits a tree. The boy’s father rushes out and gets really angry about his damaged car, and the way he feels his neighbours will now talk about his family. The fast driving could well be nothing more than a sign of stupidity, but the seventeen-year-old would-be racing driver has an older brother whose noticed something else. He’s noticed that his younger brother only drives fast when his girlfriend is in the car with him. The older brother spends time talking to him and helps him see that he does not have to put on an image and always try to impress his girlfriend. The younger brother starts getting the point, as well as realising he is wrong, and makes the right adjustments to his thinking.
In thinking about this story we see that the father’s reaction is more about the damaged car than anything else. The older brother’s action reveals better judgement and works more along the lines of how we see Jesus getting alongside people.
“What is love apart from considerateness? And what is considerateness but a careful considering or thinking how the interests of the persons loved are to be maintained or furthered?"
Prof T.E Jessop in ‘Law and Love.’
Imagine a motorcade turning into your road one morning and pulling up in front of your house. To your surprise the Queen in all her regalia, steps out of the car and knocks on your door. When you open the door she looks at you and says, “Hi, sorry for the intrusion, but I know you’re struggling a bit so I thought I’d come and help you.” She then pops into the bathroom and changes into an old boiler suit and starts scrubbing the bath. As the day progresses she cleans all the upstairs rooms and makes a start on the kitchen. Her actions and conversation throughout the day tell you something very clearly: She is interested in you; she cares about you!
In Philippians 2:5-11 we read of God stooping low because He loves us, which is why the Son of God came from heaven to earth, with the place He came from being nothing like the earth He came to.
If you said earth is like a rusted out old car and heaven is a brand new top of the range sports car, you’d still be revealing nothing of the real distance between heaven and earth. And if you said that earth is a wilted flower, whilst heaven is a whole garden of beautiful flowers in vibrant colour, you still wouldn’t do justice to the difference between heaven and earth. Yet still Jesus came to earth. Despite all the glory and wonder of heaven, Jesus still came because He’s interested in us. He’s interested in our wellbeing; He’s interested in our welfare.
Drawn by love
People were drawn to Jesus because in both word and deed He showed them that everyone and everything is important to God. He is the One who sees every sparrow that falls to the ground (Matthew 10:29-31), He knows the nature and composition of the solar system (Psalm 147:4) and He reaches out to all with the offer of salvation (John 3:16, 17). Jesus cared for people and in knowing this many were open to what He had to say.
In Matthew 20:28 we read, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” and in these words we see an incredible truth. Salvation is not a work of man for God – it is a work of God for man. It is a work of love, grace and mercy which continues right now in the heart of the believer through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
“I believe that the Christian commitment to the sanctity of every life is at the heart of this promise. Christianity offers a personal relationship with God to every human being regardless of past failures, present challenges, or future limitations. All other religions require a work ethic founded on legalistic expectations. Only Jesus makes the way to heaven available to anyone who simply trusts in him. Only Christianity can say, "By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8–9).”
Dr Jim Denison.
In scripture tolerance is the willingness to shoulder some of the pain and discomfort that comes about by walking with people who may be bitter, angry, hurt and struggling. For example, look at Jesus, and what He put up with. Look at the accusations of the religious ruling class, the aggression of those who wanted to kill Him, and those who said He was in league with Satan (Matt 12:24). Note also that during His public ministry Jesus had no real place to rest, or call home (Luke 9:58). Jesus tolerated all this discomfort out of obedience to the Father and love for the sinner whilst not tolerating sin.
Jesus could have challenged anybody the very second He laid eyes on them, but instead He got alongside them and presented a different way of living because as 2 Peter 3:9 says, “He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
Many of us will tolerate the pain caused by a dentist’s drill because we know what it will achieve. We will also tolerate working extra hours from time to time because we know the end result can be beneficial to our families. But all too often we don’t seem willing to go through the pain and inconvenience of helping others, so as to help them find healing and wholeness. God has given His very best to us – Himself and we are called to live the same way, yet in the strength of another: the Holy Spirit.
At times tolerating the situation we find ourselves in with others is going to mean walking the second mile and trusting God to show us when and how to speak – which may not be as frequently as we think! If we are honest, our words can often speak more of our timing, than Gods, in that we expect people to deal with issues right now, because we are frustrated. Yet God’s timing is always perfect. He is never early, and He is never late – He is perfect in every way.
From what has been said we begin to see that tolerance towards others is not a lack of judgement but the fruit of good judgment, which seeks the restoration of the sinner. This way of viewing others should be present in how we deal with both Christians, and non-Christians.
As a chaplain I was once asked to help remove a troublesome student from a classroom. This student had finished her exams and was due to leave the school the next day. She had been set work by a supply teacher and reacted badly. The situation then went from bad to worse.
On entering the room I spoke quietly to the girl and then asked her (as opposed to telling her) to leave the class with me. We sat down in another classroom and started talking about the issues at hand. She began the conversation with, “It wasn’t my fault, yet I got pulled out of class.” In reply I told her that on the contrary, I had empowered her by asking if she would leave the class with me, and that she had made the right choice, in doing so. Seeing things in this way helped her engage in conversation with myself and another Chaplain for the following twenty minutes. In doing so she gained a clearer idea of how to deal with emotions and confrontation. If she’d just been shouted at and told to leave the classroom, I’m certain the outcome would have been different. Sometimes we all need to slow down and think about what we do and say. We need to take time with people and, more importantly, we need to take time with God before we speak to others.
Jesus didn’t express a worldly anger or write people off
In looking at how Jesus dealt with the wrong views that people held, we see that he didn’t do so by arguing His corner or simply saying, “you are wrong” in a way that showed little genuine concern for others. Instead Jesus often dealt with contentious people by putting another vision alongside the one that they already had. For example, when some of the good teachers of the law judged Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them, Jesus used the opportunity to tell them parables about lost sheep, a lost coin and the love of a Father for wayward sons (Luke 15:1-31).
Jesus always came alongside people and the impression He left them with was not that of a judgemental person out to prove Himself right. The impression He left on those who were open was one of power and love combined with grace, compassion and mercy. He hated sin because He loved the sinner.
The anger of God
I remember reading about some street preachers being arrested for preaching the gospel, yet on closer investigation found they had been getting angry with people, slagging everyone off, and then telling everyone to repent.
Worldly anger is often little more than a means of getting back at people who’ve wronged us and if God’s anger was like this then we wouldn’t survive for a second. For example, if His anger was like ours can be at times then Jesus would not have turned over tables in the Temple courts (Mat 21:12), instead He would have totally annihilated the moneylenders. Think about it! God is the All-powerful One. He is the Creator and provider of all good things. If He really got angry with us in the way we can get angry, then how long do we think we’d last? The Bible clearly reveals that God’s anger is not like the anger of man and that, at times, He holds back His anger. For example, in Psalm 78:38 we read…
“Yet he is compassionate, He forgives sin and does not destroy. He often holds back his anger, and does not stir up his fury.”
So what is God’s anger all about then? God’s anger is a particular expression of His love for the sinner and His hatred of sin. In allowing us to feel something of His displeasure God encourages us to stop what we are doing, and turn from ways that could ultimately destroy us. God’s anger is because He is for us and against what we have become. In scripture the anger of God is spoken of as a passing state: it is present for a season with the objective of ultimately achieving good things for the sinner, whilst at the same time protecting the wider society.
“I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me – the breath of man that I have created.”
“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”
In contrast to anger, in Psalm 136, scripture tells us that “God’s love endures forever.” Note also the words of Psalm 103:17-18 where we read, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Scripture informs us that God is love (1 John 4:8) and that this love is an unconditional and sacrificial love (1 John 4:9-10). God did not need us, nor do we make Him bigger in any way when we come to Him; yet still Christ came for us. Jesus tolerated all the inconvenient ways of our world so that He could get alongside us and show us the right view of life. He then paid the price for our transgression so that we could benefit from His love. God’s willingness to come for us has been present from the foundation of the world, this being captured in verses such as 1 Peter 1:20 which reads, “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.”
Taking time to get to know people
Once upon a time there was a housing estate that looked like any other tired, nondescript sort of estate that could be found just about anywhere in the country. In the middle of the estate lived a young couple with three children aged between seven and thirteen. The children were always out late at night and the parents never seemed to be at home. Time and time again, neighbours had to complain about the children who were often out late at night and occasionally causing trouble. The months passed by and then came the news that the family was due to be evicted and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
On the day the young couple were evicted many of the neighbours stood outside and watched. One of the neighbors even came up and gave them a leaflet telling them about how God loved them, and then turned and walked away. Yet, in contrast to this a Christian couple went to the family who were being evicted and gave them a packed lunch and told them they’d taken the day off work and hired a van to help them move. The couple had found it hard at times but had taken time to get to know the family a little – and they knew the real story which was not about uncaring parents who let their children get away with everything.
The young couple knew that the family was being evicted for non-payment of rent. They also knew that the young mother of the three children was seriously ill with cancer and that her husband was constantly up at the hospital supporting his wife and struggling so much that everything just started slipping away from him. The young couple also knew that the father of the children was struggling badly with all that was going on and had lost his job in the process.
The young couple also knew that the three children had struggled at school with peer pressure and those who had looked down on them because they were not always as well-dressed as others. They also knew that the children sometimes avoided school and stayed out late as frustration and anger built up in their young lives. But not many people knew this because everyone else was too busy carving out their own lives and making themselves feel secure to really be bothered about what was happening to others around them.
“To do the work of salvation is to bring healing, relief, and victory to those weighed down by the debilitating cares and concerns of the here and now.”
M. Wilson in, ‘Our Father Abraham’, p 180.
In 1969 a young American Singer-songwriter called Joe South wrote a song that has been sung by people as diverse as Elvis Presley and Coldcut. It’s called, ‘Walk a Mile in My Shoes’ and part of the song goes like this:
“If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour. If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind. If you could see me through your eyes instead of your ego. I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’d been blind. Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes. And before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.
Now your whole world you see around you is just a reflection. And the law of common says you reap just what you sow. So unless you’ve lived a life of total perfection, you’d better be careful of every stone that you throw. Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes. And before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.
And yet we spend the day throwing stones at one another, ‘Cause I don’t think or wear my hair the same way you do. Well I may be common people, but I’m your brother, and when you strike out and try to hurt me it’s a-hurtin’ you. Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes, and before you abuse, criticize, and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.
Perhaps when we are a little more willing to tolerate some of the pain and discomfort that can sometimes come through helping others we will begin to experience more of what it means to walk (Romans 8:10) in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:10, Gal 5:25). After all, look at what Jesus went through for us.
“The task given to us by God is not to enforce a set of laws or style of worship but to offer the message of reconciliation in Christ. Instead of separating from the sinful and dangerous culture that God has placed us into, we are sent into the world by Christ to be salt and light so that many may hear the good news.”
Probe Ministry: Tolerance.
Called to share
We are a royal priesthood and a holy nation, a people belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9-10), who can do all things through the strength that He gives (Phil 4:13). We are not called to go-it-alone or think about ourselves with a total disregard of others.
As Christians we are called to share our lives. We are not called to share a ‘get out of trouble quick card’, or a plan, or programme that will somehow magically save people. Instead we are called to share our lives, with all its ups and downs, because we have been given life in Christ (John 10:10). Our lives are to speak of our openness to God’s ongoing relationship with us, which will be seen in how we love and care for those around us.
A few days ago I had a phone call from a friend who had just returned from India. She sponsors an eight-year-old boy whom she had been visiting and was pleased that he was top in some of his subjects. She then went on to say that what pleased her even more was the way he helped others and shared everything he had with them.
The Hebrew word from which ‘salvation’ derives (yasha), means to save or deliver, yet it is not a word used in the sense of escaping to heaven or into some sort of self-improvement programme. Instead it speaks of being liberated in such a way that we are able to step back into the world, so to speak, in the power of His Spirit as we get alongside others. The one who leads us in this – Jesus Christ - did not stand outside our circle of existence, and wait for us to change whilst He got on with other things. As a servant He stepped right into the middle of our existence (Phil 2:5ff) in order to help us and we are called to do likewise.
“There is no room for God in him who is full of himself”
We need to remember that we are God’s children and God longs to show us things. He longs to work with us and through us.
"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.' All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations.” Isaiah 65:1-2
Jesus said "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As we walk through our season in history there are many things that affect us. Yet if we have the right attitude to God, self and life, we will be able to overcome difficulty, know the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, and gain great blessing, even in the midst of a storm. As always, the choice is ours.
“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string that we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes."
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”