MONDAY: READ // ROMANS 13:8-14
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says,
“every knee will bow before me;
Every tongue will tell the honest truth
that I and only I am God.”
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
TUESDAY: THOUGHTS // THE BUSINESS OF OTHERS
We have no business concerning ourselves with the conscience of others. We are neither in a place to choose another’s convictions nor suffer the ramifications, thus, why do we spend so much time judging, critiquing and attempting to control the decisions of our peers? We so often assume we know the intent of our neighbor by the manner of his or her actions. As finite creatures, however, we can never know the true intent or the history that led to those decisions. It is this arrogance and pride that robs us of our peace in Christ and, ultimately, hinders our ability to be generous in him. We cannot be generous and of pure heart when we secretly condemn our neighbors for their choices.
On the one hand, it is natural to disagree with our friends from time to time. But when those times occur, we must recognize and differentiate those decisions and convictions which are ours to make from those which are not. If we venture too far into policing the values and morals and choices of others, we lose sight of the generous love of Christ. These are not our responsibility, and thinking too long on them steals away our energy for personal growth in our lives. We may regret the choices of our friends, and we can certainly tell them if we disagree, but, when that conversation is finished we must let it rest. We can be generous in love if judge our friends to be inferior—our hearts become tinged with pride and a little less open for the changing work of Jesus Christ. We can change no one. We can “save” no one. We can only love with a generous and powerful love of Christ that chooses to listen and acknowledge that others are in different places than we are. If we can be this malleable for God, we can see a bit more about what is driving our neighbor’s convictions and, in the process, about what drives ours. This is the refining fire of God in our minds and God’s invitation to be generous in love and acceptance toward our neighbors. This is how we grow together, thought by thought, learning to love as Christ loved.
WEDNESDAY: CHALLENGE // RELATIONSHIPS
We throw around the concept of “speaking the truth in love”—we have diluted this practice from what God intended and wrapped it in our personal agendas and incessant desire to be right. In love, we can have a conversation with our brothers and sisters and we can express our own values and convictions, but we cannot, “in love,” change others’ opinions. The very nature of attempting to do so is rooted in pride, in the belief that our way of thinking is more right than theirs. It may have more wisdom, it may be more logical, it may be obvious to us that something in our brothers’ and sisters’ thinking is terribly wrong. If we enter into the conversation, however, with the intent to change them, we have diluted the love of God and tainted it with pride and ignorance. Furthermore, when our agenda is to change the convictions of our friends, we can no longer listen—not to what they are saying, nor to what we may learn.
Only Christ has the power to say, “Go and sin no more,” and actually influence a life to do so. Our task is to show our friends that we will stand beside them, whether we agree with them or not. And that is the most difficult thing about relationships, because it is a unique story we must figure out for each and every person. That is a generous love barred of strings attached and personal agendas.
How often do you enter a conversation for the purpose of changing someone else’s beliefs, convictions or opinions?
Is it more effective to point out all the reasons someone else is wrong or the reasons we are right?
Can either be effective, or are we better served to have the conversation then let the relationship refine the answer out of us all?
Think back to a time you tried to change someone’s opinion about a belief or conviction—what happened?
Can we change others’ beliefs?
What is our role in our relationships? What does God want of us?
How do you respond when someone close to you makes a choice you disagree with? How does that change depending on the choice or the person?
Simplicity is the secret of seeing things clearly. A saint does not think clearly for a long while, but a saint ought to see clearly without any difficulty. You cannot think a spiritual muddle clear, you have to obey it clear. In intellectual matters you can think things out, but in spiritual matters you will think yourself into cotton wool. If there is something upon which God has put His pressure, obey in that matter, bring your imagination into captivity to the obedience of Christ with regard to it and everything will become as clear as daylight. The reasoning capacity comes afterwards, but we never see along that line, we see like children; when we try to be wise we see nothing (Matthew 11:25).
My Utmost for his Highest
Father, teach us to value the lives, thoughts and convictions of our friends. Teach us to be generous in life toward our neighbors, even those we may vehemently disagree with. It is through listening to what others have to say that we find what you want us to learn. Help us to find purpose in our disagreements with others and to see these differences not as opportunities to change someone else but as opportunities to refine who we are, to grow in who you made us to be. Lord, work in our hearts to see the good in our neighbors, despite their choices. Move in us a desire to support and stand beside our peers even if we disagree with their choices; teach us to recognize they are in a very different place on this journey and their beliefs are simply a product of where you have them, from where they have come and to where they are going. Likewise, help us to understand our beliefs are the same and to seek out your wisdom to refine our thoughts. Jesus, the root of all of this is acceptance and value. We want to prioritize these things.