This morning, as I was laying in bed, I was reminded of an incident that happened many years ago. I was a newlywed and my grandparents travelled 500 km to visit for the weekend. I was SO excited. I prepared their room, I planned menus, I shopped and of course, I cleaned. On the Saturday evening I brought out special treats I prepared, especially for the barbeque we were going to have, but something went terribly wrong that evening. I watched my hard work, together with my expectation of getting my grandma’s high praises, go up in smoke…literally. What came off the grill resembled shrivelled-up pieces of charcoal and I was livid! My disappointment spilled out of my mouth in a torrent of angry words directed at my husband. Grandma didn’t say a word (not then, anyway) but sitting at the table she ate those chunks of coal as if they were the choicest pieces of meat from the most upmarket restaurant.
Later, in the kitchen, while doing the dishes she lovingly corrected me and taught me a valuable lesson about preserving relationship, at the cost of being right or having the last word or getting your way. Sadly, that lesson went way over my head for many years, as it usually is with seed. You plant it and many times you are not around to see the fruit. Grandma hasn’t been with us for a long time, she didn’t have a change to hear me say she was right, but I guess she didn’t need to…she knew all along.
Right now Australia is in turmoil of the same-sex marriage debate, and how grateful I would be if that were the only issue dividing the body of Christ right now. Sadly, the members of my family are fighting over doctrine, theology, social issues and even over petty personality clashes. Families are divided, churches split up and why? Because everyone is so determined to have their say, have their way and make their point…we would rather be right than stay friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I am by now means advocating that we never speak the truth, that we do not set and enforce boundaries, that we turn a blind eye to sin or that we give in to sloppy living, but where is the love? In Mark 8:15 we read: Jesus repeatedly ordered them, saying, “Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
What was Jesus talking about? The yeast of the Pharisees is the spirit of religion, the spirit that loves the law and shuns the law of love and the yeast or leaven of Herod is the political spirit, the spirit that will not back down, that will not be argued with, that has to prove itself right, by any means possible.
Juxtaposed to that is the Seven Spirits of God, fully contained in Holy Spirit and resting on Jesus (see Isaiah 11:2) – the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Understanding, the Spirit of Counsel, the Spirit of power, the Spirit of Knowledge and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. These are all available to us and we need to make a choice…do we allow the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod to permeate our lives, or do we walk in the same spirit Jesus walked in?
Paul is such an inspiration and example to us. He understood his freedom in Christ and knew how to use it wisely. He can speak for himself…
”19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19 – 23 NIV)
He also had something to say about our freedom…23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. (1 Corinthians 10: 23, 24 NIV)
As the people of God, we have been mandated to bring a message of reconciliation and restoration. When we speak truth or bring correction, we need to bring it in such a way that the person on the receiving end does not feel slimed, but is restored to be who God created them to be. We should speak once and listen twice…and listen with our hearts…a tall order, because we will need a greater measure of humility than ever and we will need to swallow a lot of pride.
I can only speak for myself here, but when I leave a room, I want people to feel like they have been in the presence of Jesus. I want to leave behind a beautiful aroma, not a religious, offensive stench that makes people gag. I fail often, but I keep the dream alive…come Holy Spirit, search us. We need Your help here!