In the top drawer next to our stove are 40 large spoons, ladles, knives and other assorted things one might need when preparing food and cooking on the stove. (Yes, I counted them) At least 30 of those in my opinion are clutter, as Barb and I generally use just our favorite 'go to' utensils on a day to day basis.
One day I was trying in vain to find my favorite slotted spoon as I was cooking spaghetti sauce or something, but it was hidden deep among the 40, and I couldn't find it anywhere. So I grabbed handfuls of spoons and knives and such and laid them on the counter and sifted through them like I was a giant gray headed squirrel looking for the perfect acorn, but not finding it, leaving about 20 items still in the drawer.
Just then Barb walked past, and seeing the mess I was making scattering utensils across her formerly uncluttered counter top, stopped and asked what in the world I was doing with that tone of voice that was both amused and slightly annoyed.
When I told her I was looking for my favorite plastic tipped slotted spoon, she looked down into the open drawer, reached in and pulled out my spoon from among the 20 and plopped it down on the counter loudly, shaking her head and muttering something about 'men' to herself as she walked away. Sheepishly I uttered a 'Thanks honey' and wondered how in the world I couldn't see it sitting there in plain sight.
What I've been talking about
The last 6 weeks I've talked about Christians who are emotionally unhealthy, about abusers and the abused, and many readers have noticed they are related topics. Today I want to share a common thread, and that is in both cases their unhealthiness causes them to focus on things that take them away from the Prime Directive from the Lord, which is: Daily becoming more like Him.
Anything and anyone that takes us away from growth as a person in Him, is a distraction and often a plan of the enemy to make us look at the 39 things in the drawer of life to the point we can't see the all-important 40th thing, which is what we really need: Christ.
When a person is emotionally unhealthy or an abuser all they see is the object of their pain, the source of what they believe is their problem. They can't emotionally 'step back' from the issue to see the larger picture. That singular focus causes them to lay aside growth in Christ in order to address their crisis, or whatever is the object of their attention and affection. That could include an off balance teaching, or focus on a legitimate Bible teaching just taken to such an extreme they ignore balance, or a person who has made them angry. Either way, they stray off the path of balance and wholeness in order to devote themselves to a single point.
Is your focus in life leading you deeper into maturity in Him, or away from maturity in Him?
"Giving all diligence add to your faith moral excellence, and to that add knowledge, and to that self-control, and to that consistency, and to that godly character, and to that brotherly love, and to that unconditional love." II Peter 1:1-10
"Walk in the Spirit/spirit and you won't walk in the flesh, the fruit of the Spirit/spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self control." Galatians 5:22-23
"If I speak with tongues of men and of angels yet don't have love, I'm like a brass bell or cymbal. If I prophesy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and have all faith so that I could even remove mountains, yet don't have love, I am nothing."
(Many distractions and off balance teachings and 'moves of God' come under the heading of mysteries and knowledge - are those interests leading you deeper into the love of God and love for the people in your life, or does your focus cause division and alienation?)
"Even if I give all I have to the poor and even if I am martyred by being burned to death, yet don't have love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind. Love doesn't envy, doesn't exalt itself, doesn't get puffed up in pride. Love doesn't behave incorrectly, nor does it seek to push itself above others. Love isn't easily provoked, nor does it think evil of others. It doesn't rejoice in sin, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..." I Corinthians 13:1-8
Here is how to stay free of offense
When you have deep in your heart the Prime Directive of growing in Christ, you understand anything that comes your way is first to be treated as an opportunity to walk in greater Christ-like character.
As a result, you won't be offended by someone who believes differently than you because you will take what they believe under advisement to the King, realizing what they believe they believe unto the Lord, and you stay emotionally separated from what they believe even if you think it is a goofy as can be. You are looking for how what they believe and your interactions with them cause you to grow deeper in Christ and cause you to exercise Christ-like character and growth.
You won't be offended because someone chooses to worship on a different day than you, or is mid-trib when you are pre-trib, or think tongues and miracles faded with the first century of the faith. You won't be inclined to enter into the aforementioned 'word battles' because you are exercising Christ's patience and knowing that what they believe they do unto the Lord - He accepts them in spite of themselves, so you do as well. You don't make their issues your issues. All you are looking for is the grace of God in them, looking for what He has done in their life, and how you can grow in Christ in your interactions with them.
Righteousness comes through faith in Christ, but is unproven, as I've said many times. Anyone can say they are born again. Anyone can say they love God but He remains unseen at that point. God in His wisdom has caused righteousness in Christ to be proven and matured within the framework of relationships, and that is how He is seen and how a person is proven to know God.
That means things like adding moral excellence, knowledge, consistency and patience, love and joy, patience and meekness, self control and long suffering, seen in scripture are all written with the understanding these things grow in us through the ups and downs of relationships. That's how we know Christ is in us, and in our spouse, our friend, our sibling, our neighbor - because they are endeavoring to live out their righteousness within the framework of healthy relationships.
That means God intends marriage to make us holy
God intends our relationships with our neighbors to make us holy. God intends our relationships with our families to make us holy. Every relationship is intended by the Father to help us (and them if they are willing) grow in Christ, maturing as people each day.
Your spouse isn't in your life just to complete you, be your soul mate, or to make you laugh. While elements of those things and more may be part of the mix, the primary purpose for a married couple is their differences will lend themselves to growth in Christ, both individually and as a couple, thus becoming one.
Your boss isn't there to make you angry or frustrated, but that Christ may work within that relationship to mature you. Your neighbor's barking dog isn't there to irritate you, but to afford you an opportunity to grow in Christ and do good to your neighbor, proving you know Christ by letting His love be manifest towards them.
That which causes us to retreat into ourselves, that causes us to retreat from walking in closeness with our spouse, friends, and neighbors, is a distraction and in direct conflict with the purpose Jesus put us on this earth. Righteousness is proven within the framework of relationships.
What we really need is hiding in plain site among the 40 things in life we are juggling, we just have to stop paying attention to the 39 to see the 40th, which is Christ. As Paul said in his closing words to the Galatians: "Neither Jew nor Gentile means anything, but the power of the new birth. And peace is on all who live by this principle.." Stay focused on Him and ask, "How do you want me to grow in this?"
A 'random thought' next week, until then, blessings,