We can’t have it both ways, if we’re being true to our love of God. We can’t do things one way and think and feel the other way. If we are only ”nice” and “good” and “kind” on the outside, our inner state will belie what we do. We all read the inner energies of the people we meet, if only at an unconscious level. If what we see doesn’t match what we’re sensing from someone else, we will not trust what they say or do.
What Jesus calls us to is a consistent output—inner and outer—of the qualities He preaches. Turn the other cheek[Matthew 5:39]—don’t respond out of anger or the need to retaliate. Go the extra mile[Matthew 5:41—do more than is asked of you. Give the person your cloak as well as your shirt[Matthew 5:40]—be generous, give more than is asked. Love your enemies [Matthew 5:44] and your neighbors [Matthew 22:36-40]: see the person before you in his or her wholeness—that he or she, too, is a child of God, someone deserving to be seen and known. Give to the needy in secret[Matthew 6:2-4] Pray in secret, too.[Matthew 6:6] Do not call attention to yourself.
This is of course a very high standard for us human beings. If all we are concerned about our own status or needs, we cannot follow these instructions at all. If we want to make sure that our contribution is noticed and celebrated, then we are not caring about anyone else. We are taught to be nice, no matter how we feel about the person before us. We are taught to give, but not about healing our own inner states. We are really good at “looking good,” but less so about being good and consistent with all that we are.
And do we need help with conforming to these teachings! We do! They are something that we can work on by ourselves, but rarely accomplish. The only thing that has worked for me is to lift each instance of violating these teachings to God, asking Him to heal my inner self, and setting my intentions to align myself with His will. It is only in surrendering ourselves over and over again to God’s will that we even begin to approach the standards of His teachings.
In the meantime, while we await God’s transforming powers to work within us–and I don’t in any way suggest that this is a one-time healing–we immerse ourselves in His word, we continue to lift up all that is against His teachings to Him, and we seek His counsel throughout our days.
Recently I wrote that if we’re still thinking the same way we’ve always thought and continue to do what we’ve always done, we’ve done very little to conform to God’s ways. It is not enough to believe in God and assume that we’re in good with Him. The first proof that we are really conforming to God’s ways is that we can feel the different responses within ourselves. We no longer hold on to anger. We come to the place where we can forgive some pretty awful stuff that happened to us and what we ourselves did. We are no longer anxious about every little thing. When the old reactions start to arise, we find that we have a choice whether we will go to fear and anger as we always have OR we will choose to love.
The second proof of our growing in the relationship with God is an awareness of His presence throughout our days. We have a way or times of sitting in His presence daily, studying the Bible, speaking/praying with Him throughout the day. And we depend on that interaction.
The third proof is that we don’t have to continually call attention to ourselves and how wonderful we are. This is called true humility, knowing 1) that God is the Source of all our goodness and faithfulness and not we ourselves and 2) that in God’s eyes we are just one of billions that He loves, and we are still important to Him.
The fourth proof is a growing awareness of our purpose, lifelong and in this moment and the next. We are asking what am I do here? What should I say, Lord? As to a lifelong purpose, in following God’s intimate suggestions our purpose is revealed. It is often beyond anything that we have envisioned for ourselves, something that leaves us even more dependent on Him to be successful at it.
As I wrote above, we cannot affect all these changes in ourselves. Only God can do that. That’s why it is so essential for us to put ourselves in His hands and to follow His wisdom for us. The ultimate proof of our faithfulness to God is the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit within us, both in our outer actions, in what we say and our inner state of being: peace, joy, love, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the fruit—the end product of a long growing season which started with the leaf, then the bud, then the flower and finally the fruit. When we recognize the fruit of the Spirit in someone else and even in ourselves, we can be sure that they(and we) have been very attentive to God over the long haul of a journey to our depths in Him which then pours those fruits out of us to the world.
So, no matter what your church teaches about believers being chosen or part of a select few, that you have the right beliefs and others don’t– that is only the first step in loving God. It is still an ego-based belief system. What Jesus calls us to do is to give up our ego-centricity in favor of being one of his many faithful followers. He will take us where our creation implies. And much, much more… At last, we will become transparent, the face we show to the world will be the same as out attitudes that are within us. We will be nice within and without. We will be loving, congruent with everything within us. Amen!
Questions to ponder over the week: Is there any sign of humility in me? Do I still take credit for everything and neglect to mention all that God does in and around and for me? Do I ask God to heal the past in me? Do I ask Him to help me change my attitudes? Do I put myself in His hands? Do I see any evidence in me of the fruit of the spirit growing in me? Am I more at peace? More patient? More loving, kind, good, gentle, etc.? Am I grateful for my life as it is? For the companions I’ve had along the way?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who are humble, who are the same on the inside and in the face we present to the world. May we be congruent, integrated, loving, peaceful people. May they know we are Christians by our love!
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