Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"Set Apart" Series, Part One: Can We Really Live This Way?

It doesn't matter where I turn lately, it's all around me: sarcasm and insults that is.

It's in reality shows, news reports, the blogosphere, social media. It's in my church, and even worse, in my home.

God has laid this on my heart as a matter of urgency to discuss among believing Christians, and though I'd much rather write on a Psalm or an encouraging passage, my eyes & heart are locked into this series, and the key is nowhere to be found. So after much prayer, I'll share.

"Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless--that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing."
1 Peter 3:8,9
Disclaimer: I'm not a theologian, so I'm not going to attempt to take apart the meaning of this passage. Rather, I'd like to share some of the insight and ponderings the Lord has laid on my heart--what it has stirred up in me. So, no sermon here...but think along. Pray along. And ask the Lord to reveal His Truth to you in a fresh way...

First and foremost, can we as believers really live this way? I believe we can, but not by mustering up our own discipline or fortitude. Rather, by the power and with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Every action in our Christian lives comes down to Spirit-filled living. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Sure, as a stand-alone, these verses in 1 Peter could be used by any "peace-loving" person or religion. But we are not talking about loving peace, we're talking about loving Christ.

The truth is, if you live this way as a believer, you will be put down, ridiculed or worse. Those who live this way as a non-believer will rarely be persecuted. Have you ever noticed that? Maybe this is because when we do what is right because the Holy Spirit is leading us, the Lord shines through...thus resistance from those who don't know Him. When someone lives with "the common good" as his motive, most of the time, people admire them, even follow them, so to speak. Even Christians can be deceived by these "good people," and if we're not careful, we'll begin to imitate them instead of Christ.

Something else to ponder: Oftentimes, Christians believe that being "agreeable" means you can't speak out on evil or other issues. That is not true. But we must realize when we do speak out, the Lord wants us to do it His way. In Spirit and in Truth. (John 16:13 & Romans 9:1) For me, I'm still learning what that means, and it is a continual process of surrender for Him to teach me.

On the opposite end, I hear & read of other Christians who seem to think that bashing their spouse or boss or pastor or another believer is perfectly within their freedom to do. While I try not to stand in judgment of these actions, they still wrinkle my spirit and make my heart feel sick. Unfortunately, I have been a "basher" a time or two (or two times three) myself, which makes me sicker than anything.


So, in summary today, let's pause and ponder this:
Why are so many Christians fighting?
Have we lost our sympathy and passion for the lost & hurting?
How can we get away from using the same humor and retaliation that the rest of the world does?
Are we busy looking for ways to be blessed, or are we blessing others?
How can we stand up for and help those who can't defend themselves without using the world's methods?
Are we living a "good" life or a Holy-spirit filled life? 
From whom do we receive our advice and counsel on right living?
Why is it so hard to live this way, and how can we start to turn the trend around in the church and in our homes?


Share your thoughts and your ideas, your struggles and solutions if you feel led.

Father, I praise You for giving me Your Word to help me in this life. I am more aware than ever that this is not my real home, because each day I feel a little more uncomfortable than I did the day before. I long for my Heavenly home, yet I know You still have work for me to do here. Help me to be content, not to lose my passion to love and live Your way, and not to grow bitter and sarcastic toward others. Lord, show me how to depend on You more fully to live out these passage of Scriptures in every situation and relationship. It gets so muddy, so complicated, and I often try to figure things out on my own. Cause humility & work salvation in and through me, I pray. In Jesus' name, Amen.


12 friends shared a comment:

Prodigal said...

I'm in this situation now. I have a friend who is into Zen. She constantly proselytizes me and I have to really pick my spots.

Why?

Our culture is conditioned to treat Christians differently.

zombie said...

Laura,

This is something I think we all struggle with. When is it appropriate to rebuke and when do we encourage and love? I think that we see more arguing, insults, and backbiting because we have gotten afraid of calling sin "sin", yet there is a dissatisfaction in our spirit that has to be expressed one way or another.

Part of love is speaking truth, and truth is what it is, even if it offends. We aren't called to make everyone feel good about themselves, we're called to show people the Truth of God. Can we do it without being rude or insulting? Perhaps, but determining something as rude or insulting comes down to perception as well - and that perception is from the other party. Was Jesus insulting when he called the Pharisees a brood of vipers? Was John the Baptist rude when he confronted Herod before everyone? I think in today's world, we'd say yes. I think we would flinch from the confrontation.

It's a fine line to walk, and one that is only successful when accompanied by much prayer and thought. While I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should not treat others with disdain and insults, I also think we shouldn't confuse love of neighbor with an "anything goes" acceptance of behaviors or choices that are clearly against God. This is the only way I can describe it....

A drug addict will continuously manipulate you to feed their habit. I have been in the position of having to tell a family member who was an addict that I wouldn't pay for their habit, they couldn't be in my home, and I wouldn't trust my children around them. My choices did make them feel I was judging them and angry, but in reality I was just putting boundaries on how much I allowed their behavior to affect me and my family. I continued to love the person, to speak encouragement and hope to that person, but I also let him know that his choices were affecting the relationship. I did what I could to be at peace with this person without sacrificing my family or well-being in return, but neither did I accept the behavior. I don't know if this makes sense or not, and it may not be a very good analogy, but it's the only one I can come up with at the moment.

I love your blogs, thoughts and Bible verses on Facebook...thank you SOOO much for all the encouragement that you give us! :D

LauraLee Shaw said...

Prodigal: Makes me sad.

Zombie: So true. Truth in love does not always feel good. It is oftentimes doing the hard thing instead of the easy thing.

Thanks so much for your thoughts so far!

Joanne Sher said...

It's hard, Laura, because it's "illogical," and much of the time it's easier to follow the world's logic than God's. We have to be in tune with His Spirit to act like Him, and many don't bother. (Including yours truly on occasion!)
This is an issue with me too - both in how much it bothers me, and my own participation. Thank you for this - I am looking forward to the rest of the series. It is much needed!

Denise said...

It is so beyond sad that many Christians have become cold, and indifferent. They have turned their eyes upon themselves, and their on needs. We need to look outward, not inward, be selfless, not selfish. We need to try our best to meet the needs of others, especially their need for Jesus.

TRUTH SHARER said...

Oh what a 'precious to my heart' post!!!

YES, YES, and YES we can live this way and we must because we are commanded to:

"Be ye holy, for I AM HOLY!"

Being 'set apart' is so that we can share Christ and the power of His resurrection. It's not for us to go around and be prideful in being Christians.

You asked why are so many fighting? ... and I ask why are so many mean spirited - why even among Christians is there jealousy?

The answer goes back to the root of all sin - it's what got Lucifer kicked out of heaven: PRIDE ...
which taken to the end is SELFISHNESS [SIN].

When we start doing as Jesus asked us to do [from His Word] - to think of others before we think of ourselves - maybe being 'set apart' for Him wouldn't be so hard!

Sweet girlfriend, don't ever - EVER - apologize for bringing to light the Scripture and principles of holiness [toward our God] into view. WE NEED to be reminded that we ARE 'set apart for Him' - for a purpose! For HIS KINGDOM purpose!

When we as followers of Christ - start believing what we claim - and start remembering that this world is not about US - it's about HIM - THEN - we could turn the world upside down with the Spirit's power behind us.

Kill 'em with kindness - but tell them the TRUTH! God is a God of Love and Grace but He's also a God of Justice and Judgment. We must meet Him on HIS terms for both!

Praise God that you wrote this marvelous post!

And lastly - my favorite line in your entire post was:
"they still wrinkle my spirit"

Is THAT not the most precious and kind way of saying something that you find hard to deal with?

Bless you, my friend!!

Choosing JOY, Stephanie
[JESUS - the One I Worship]

Sarah Dawn said...

Delighted to meet you! I just found your blog via a friend and glad I stopped by. RIght now, Psalm 84 is the song the Lord is singing over me.

Blessings from Costa Rica,
Sarah Dawn

PS It's a delight to follow along and be refreshed over here more often.

Lori said...

Well written and well said... looking forward to part two. three? four?

Karlene Jacobsen said...

This is so right on (for this heart). Thank you for being obedient to the tugging of Holy Spirit to share this with your fellow Christians.

I've named you as a recipient of an award on my blog. I'd love to share it with you.
http://joyfulscribe.blogspot.com

Blessings, Karlene

Betsy Markman said...

"Sure, as a stand-alone, these verses in 1 Peter could be used by any "peace-loving" person or religion. But we are not talking about loving peace, we're talking about loving Christ."

That's a "Stand up and cheer" comment! So many don't know the difference these days!

Bless you, my sister!

Patty Wysong said...

Bashing is a pet peeve of mine--which means it reeeeeeally bothers me when I catch myself doing it--and, sad to say, there are times I do. Thank God, those times aren't as often as they once were.

Thanks for this reminder to leash my tongue when it comes to my thoughts, and to UNleash it for the Spirit.
Hugs!

Laury said...

Living a good life and a Holy Spirit filled life are two completely different things. I love this post.

I'm seeing people on FB talking about Michael Jackson where yesterday no one was. Is so strange that many seem to have an opinion about his life and condemn him. I am so glad that's not my job. I have enough sin in my life to keep me busy.

I love how your posts open up so much discussion and get us to really think. Thank you Laura.