Sorry, Wrong Answer!

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by Linda Rex

Have you ever had one of those occasions when your mouth gets the best of you even though you are trying real hard to bite your tongue? I had one of those the other day.

A very nice lady called me up to talk to me about a form I had filled out. She had some valid questions and comments to make. And I tried to listen and answer her in the best way that I could. But as we talked, I understood less and less what she was talking about and became more and more confused and frustrated, even though I was trying very hard to understand and respond appropriately.

Eventually I found myself talking out of my frustration instead of out of the love of Christ. I realize now that I was so busy being upset about what she was saying and that I might have made a mistake that I really didn’t hear what she was saying. If I had just heard her out and took a few minutes to think, I would not have responded as I did. The phone conversation would have taken half as long. And she would not have had to put up with my inconsiderate speech.

As we closed the call, I apologized to her for my poor phone manners. I was truly sorry I had been such a sore heel about such a simple matter. She was very gracious, considering the fact that I was guilty of “shooting the messenger.” I’m grateful that she was patient and willing to forgive.

So often we can find ourselves in the place where we are so busy defending ourselves from a supposed wrong that we don’t realize that the other person isn’t there to criticize but to help. We can become guilty of attacking the very person who is there to help us out and is trying to do us a favor.

I believe this happens when we lose sight of the reality that at the cross we all stand at the same place. We are all made worthy of the same love of God in Christ. We need to see each person we meet as a “messenger” of God in that he or she is also made in God’s image for his glory. We are all sinners, every one, cleansed and perfected by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and brought into the love and life of Father, Son, and Spirit.

In the light of that truth about ourselves and others, we can face up to our failures with humility and grace. And because we are deeply aware of our need for God’s grace and love and are living and walking in the Spirit, we can be gracious and loving to others, even when we are feeling frustrated or confused. And when we fall short, as I did the day I “shot the messenger”, we can receive the same grace we offer to others when they too fail to act and speak in love. This is the way in which God meant for us to live and walk in love, in the light of Jesus, the Word of Life. This is what makes us family.

Holy Father, thank you for always being gracious with us when we do not guard our tongues or our attitudes and behaviors as we ought. Too often we are governed by our tongues rather than bringing them under submission to your will and your love. Lord, please fill our hearts and minds with your love and life. Let us daily live and speak in love as we dwell in heavenly places with you in Christ Jesus. May your love, as Father, Son, and Spirit, dwell in our hearts by faith and continue to transform us in such a way that our speech and conduct always reflect your glory. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” –Proverbs 15:1

Grace for the Mockers

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by Linda Rex

I was chatting with some volunteers one day as we waited for our next round of clients. As I listened to the comments they were making about some Christians of other faiths, I felt acutely uncomfortable. The condemnation in their tone and words was severe because they believed that these particular Christians should accept the same position they held on secondary matters of faith. I felt that the position that those that were being critical held was based on prejudice and a theologically unsound understanding of certain scriptures. I guess I was uncomfortable because, unbeknownst to them, I was one of the ones they were mocking.

But I felt very much like the apostle Paul when he underwent such persecutions and sufferings. Because he at one time had persecuted and condemned Christians, he accepted his persecutions and condemnations as a Christian with great grace. For he knew at one time he was such as they were. I also had a time in my walk with God when I was equally critical and condemning of those who did not believe as I did. So I must approach such things with the great grace God in his mercy showed me in bringing me to a more accurate and healthy faith.

The key is understanding in whose image we were made. We were made in the image of God to reflect his likeness. Humans have the unique ability to replicate the image of God through childbirth. We were created to bear the image of God in that we might be temples of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of the living God. In Christ we have been reborn into God’s image, purified and renewed by his pure and holy life, death and resurrection. And in his ascension God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

When we see ourselves through Jesus Christ as God sees us, we see that we are all one in him. There is no male or female, no Jew or Greek, no slave or freeman. These distinctions no longer apply. We are all one in the same way that the Father, Son and Spirit are unique and yet one, living in “perichoresis” with one another. And God has included us in this divine life and love in Jesus Christ, who died for all that all may be forgiven.

If our salvation and faith are based fully on Jesus Christ, on what he did, has done and will do, then there is no basis for prejudice or condemnation. We all stand at the same place, the throne of mercy, at the feet of the One who is both the judge and the condemned sinner who was sin for us, in whom we died, rose again and ascended to the Father’s side, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

So whatever differences we may have find their unity and diversity in Jesus Christ. In him we find a place of unity where we can reconcile our differences in grace. In him we find a standard by which we may accurately judge but not condemn those who reject his saving grace and choose to find their own path of salvation.

Yes, we will be different, but there is no need for cursing others. For God has called us to bless not to curse. Are we not even to bless and pray for our enemies? So let us rather pray for and bless those who oppose Christ or who do not acknowledge the centrality of his grace. But let us not curse. For that does not reflect the image of God in Christ we are to bear.

Lord, forgive us for our prejudices and our condemnations with regards to others of different faiths and beliefs. Open our eyes to see what you are doing in each person’s life we meet and grant us the grace to bless, not to curse, to forgive, not to condemn, to pray for them, not to reject them. Unite our hearts and wills in you, Jesus, that we may worship at your feet forever in the unity in which you dwell, Holy God. In the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we pray and thank you. Amen.

“With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”
— James 3:9-10