Friday, December 23, 2005

Checking Up On Myself

I have an acquaintance who is a pastor at a Baptist church here in Dallas. I only know him because we worked at the same place together and were even on the same team for a while. I was inwardly a little shocked when I found out he was a pastor. I would never have picked him out as even a church leader because he was not very outgoing - seemed kind of shy and a little bit withdrawn. I always thought pastors were friendly and people oriented; and showed interest in others. But he never did that - at least not with me. When this sort thing happens; and people are unfriendly toward me, I have always concluded that their unfriendliness was the result of some kind of discrimination - wrong hair color, skin color; wrong gender. Any of these might have been the issue that kept this pastor from being friendly toward me - I don't know what it was. I just found it odd that he was not at least curious about who I was and what I was about.

Then, I realized that he had gotten a dose of what I was about. Someone he had talked to, had told him things about me that had formed his initial impression of who I was and what I was like. And without his own firsthand examination - he had categorized me and put me into his files under the label he had prepared on the basis of what he had heard. My reaction to this treatment was a certain amount of hurt. Now no one gets used to being rejected, but you would think with as much experience as I have had with that emotion that I would be used to it - but to me it is like the first time every time it comes; and especially from God's people. It grieves me. I guess I expect more from them who, supposedly after "humbly" receiving grace (undeserved favor) from God, snub others. Shouldn't they turn around and give that same grace treatment to others? To protect my back I let judgment set in. I then categorize, label and file that person under "Pharisee" and go on.

Then I got to thinking - "How does that make me any different from him?" The answer of course is that it doesn't - it makes me just like him. I am no different than the Pharisees I so disdain.

When we walk with Jesus (if we truly walk with him) there is no time to create such a filing system. These kind of filing systems require extensive attention; filing is tedious work, the chests get heavier and heavier each day from the weight of the paper they contain. Lugging them around while walking with Jesus is not only against the character and work of our Lord, it's impractical. You might think the way to go is electronic. That way you don't have the hard copies to drag around - it's all in a database. But filing electronically while certainly more compact, is nearly as tedious. No, truthfully the business of walking with Jesus is incompatible with record keeping. Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 13:5, Love "does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered."

The ministry of Jesus was and is "love!" As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must love others. In order to love others, we must first love ourselves. But in order to love ourselves, we must first receive His love for us - without all of these steps - we are doomed to be Pharisees. All we have without love is selfishness - and the seed of selfishness breeds contempt in those it is sown. In Jesus we have the foremost example of selflessness, therefore those who would follow Him and certainly those who claim to represent Him here on this earth - who claim to have inherited His ministry must also walk in selflessness. Categorizing, labeling and filing must cease. We don't need it. For now there is "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." Now, the requirement of the Mosaic Law can be fulfilled in those, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (See Romans 8:1-2, 4) If God Himself does not keep records of the offenses against Him - who are we that we should keep accounts of wrongdoings against us?

Rev. Bob Ellis


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