Posts Tagged ‘gentleness’

Photo by Mike Dykstra

How often do we need to remind someone? In my house, we must remind teenagers every day (and more than once a day) to clean the cat box, empty the trash, and put the dishes in the dishwasher. And how many more times if we added, “choose what is good today.”

Titus 3:1-2
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
[NIV 2011]

I haven’t been able to verify this piece of information, but I did read somewhere that parents, in order to teach a small child or toddler to say “please” and “thank you,” must be remind the child at least 10,000 times before he or she will remember. That’s daunting. In a year, that’s 27 times a day. And if one has more than child . . . you do the math.

Apparently, it’s not much better with adults who must learn the basics of walking out the faith, the very faith they have chosen to follow and even profess. They must be reminded to choose “good,” to obey authorities, to be considerate and to be gentle towards everyone.

If we must be reminded, the implication is clear: we’re not doing it. I’m not doing it either. Why?

As Samuel Johnson is quoted as saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Is it really just forgetting to do it? That’s what my kids say, “I forgot.” My husband is particularly irked by his ignored requests, taking that behavior as a choice and therefore lack of respect.

Maybe it’s just our human tendency to take the easier way, the wide road. After all, choosing to “do good” might take me out of my way or inconvenience me. Being obedient might entail putting that person’s request above my own plans. Or, it could be a type of laziness.

But what about the other elements of this teaching from Paul to Titus? What excuse would there be for not keeping the peace or conducting oneself gently? Is it easier to be argumentative and domineering? Perhaps it’s a safety issue again, a control issue. Somewhere along the line, the idea of being gentle feels too much like being a door mat and keeping the peace may mean giving way to my ideas or my decisions.

Or, maybe I just need to be reminded.

Where do the reminders come from? Sermons? Reading? Small group meetings? Blogs? Music? Yes to all of these and more. We immerse ourselves in these mediums to help us remember.

Other faith traditions do the same thing, keeping feasts and festivals and rituals to help the people remember the why’s of faith.

Today is Good Friday, 2011. It is a day for us to remember the Christ who died, crucified, and the mystery that would be revealed. And as we do, we might also remember the rest of the story, the part that leads us to choose a better way each day.

Thanks be to God.

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What do you think it means to “fight the good fight?” I used to think it meant a lot of proselytizing and speaking out for the faith. I needed to take a stand, face derision for my beliefs, hold the line, and be bold for Jesus. Wrong.

I Timothy 6:11-12a
But you, man [woman] of God, flee from all this [the love of money], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

To fight the good fight, it’s an interior struggle; it’s learning to choose, in the moment, the right way, the honest way, a choice that may not be “best” for me. It’s about experiencing God in such a way that I am awake to the Holy Spirit and respond to people and situations as the Christ would. It’s about believing in the truth of the Presence. It’s all real and true and does make a difference inside me. I am different because of that Presence. It’s love. And that’s the most difficult of all because it’s love in the face of all things, it’s love so strong that one’s heart is visible, it’s love so authentic that is can tolerate rejection and hatred and betrayal. That’s why endurance is part of the package. That’s the fight part. Keeping on. And then, the last: gentleness. What? Gentleness? How do we do this long-suffering battle with gentleness?

It would take everything in me to test to truth of these words. And that’s the point.

I need to be gentle with myself. It’s a journey. It’s a war to become . . . to really give it all away (those old ways, not just the stuff) and follow the Christ.

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When is the end? I always wonder if I’ll know the end. I mean, maybe the end has already come and I’m just treading water. Has “death” been destroyed by the Christ? I mean, He got to pop back up from the tomb, but what about the rest of us?

I Corinthians 15:24-26
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

I have pretty much assumed that “believers” die, resurrect immediately after death, get to be with Jesus in heaven, and have a big meet-up with our family members who took an early exit. But, reading this portion of Corinthians, I’m having to rethink these assumptions.

Of course, I’m not speaking of any academic evaluation of this verse or comparing it with others in the Bible. I’m not an eschatologist. I’m just thinking about the words and looking for an application for me today.

I do believe Christ has full control over the kingdom (in the whenever). And this kingdom exists now but is not “handed over” until the sifting has been completed: the destruction of the other powers/enemies. Death is the final enemy.

So, is death destroyed now? Are people who are dead, not dead? But if not dead, then are they only in heaven not dead? Jesus made a re-appearance in our 3-D world. What about the rest of them… or us?

I still don’t think I get it. The deal with humans and death and Christ, that is. Jesus promises that we “can” be like him [Romans 8:29] and manifest even more works/miracles than He did [John 14:12]. So, what’s up with that?

I’m guessing we’re still in Seth Godin’s “Dip”. People are having trouble “sticking” with it. We have grown discouraged like the servants who were told to take care of the vineyard while the master was away [Luke 20:9-20]. We don’t really believe that death can be conquered in our “time.” We don’t really believe we, humans, can do those miracles. For those who get excited about this possibility and start seeking out that capability, they may begin to look like charlatans and snake-handlers. If people look for the miracle working power without the foundational stuff in place, it gets distorted. Pure and simple.

What’s foundational? The Sermon on the Mount stuff: all the PARADOX stuff like humility, mercy, cheek-turning, selflessness, poverty, purity, peacemaking, and gentleness.

OK, it’s not the end because God is giving us a chance to work this out. To practice a little more. I know I need practice.

This is when I wish I had those “matrix” eyes so I could see what is really “real.” That’s where the kingdom is – it’s here around me. I just can’t see it because I am blinded by my attachment to life as I have known it, not life as the Christ wants me to live it.

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I Peter 3:15
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”

Gentleness and respect for the other! But also, be gentle with yourself. This scripture used to send me into fear and trembling. Oh my… I’m going to have to lay out the facts of my faith. I’ll need to have scriptures memorized. I’ll have to know the 4 Spiritual Laws. I’ll have to answer tough questions about the complexities and apparent discrepancies in scripture. Oh no!

But now, I read this verse with thanksgiving. I thank God for the Christ of my heart. I thank God for the works He has done in my heart so far… and what He will continue to do … for you see, it’s all part of that “sanctification” process. And so, all I can share is what I know. God is not asking me to be more than I am. He’s not asking me to be a preacher or an apostle or a polished speaker. All I need to tell is my story. My story is God’s story. I am just one sliver of God’s grace. And for that I am grateful because without it, I would be dead, literally.

When Christ found me in New York City in 1979, I was spiraling down a very slippery slope while living a decadent life. Everything about me was self-centered and self-destructive from drugs to alcohol to sexual improprieties. And yet, when He touched me… it was with gentleness and respect. Oh yes, and I know, if He could do this for me, when I was living the darkest of lives… then He can do it for anyone else. And shouldn’t I do the same? Shouldn’t I, then, be able to offer gentleness and respect to all persons … for who is say, who might see the truth of Christ through me? Just the way I am… so far.

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