Life Beyond the Law

So many times I’ve said myself or heard other Christians say, “I wish I hadn’t done that. I’m going to ask Jesus to help me do better with that in the future.”  While there’s nothing explicitly wrong with that prayer, I’ve come to believe there’s really not much right about it.

Jesus didn’t come so we could obey the law better. He came to show us the love of the Father and to draw us to Him. Then, as a result of our personal connection to Him, our lives will be transformed.  We will not be an improved version of ourselves. Not better. But transformed entirely.

Imagine standing around the proverbial water cooler at work. What would it take for you to not join in the gossip about an annoying coworker? Perhaps exercising your willpower? Concentrating on something else? Reminding yourself that good Christians wouldn’t act that way? Biting your tongue hard enough to pierce it? Any of those approaches might work. And certainly it would not be wrong of you not to gossip.  That’s making use of a couple of double negatives to say, sure, it’s a good thing to avoid gossiping by any methods. Not gossiping decreases the harm done to others. But does biting your tongue to avoid gossiping make you a Jesus-follower? Does it give evidence of being a Christian?  Does having enough will power to control yourself hold weight with God?  Not gossiping is in line with the moral law.  Doesn’t that count for something?

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God’s way is not our way. His thoughts are not our thoughts. Jesus didn’t simply come to show us an example and instruct us on right-living. He came to show us the Father. He came to restore a broken relationship – one where we didn’t trust that He had our best interest in mind. He came to establish a kinship where He calls us friend and brother. His life was one of restoration and healing.

Jesus told us in many different ways that it’s not what is on the outside of a man that matters – but what is in his heart. A life transformed by the Holy Spirit will live beyond the law -in the spirit of the law – not focused on obedience to the letter of the law. A Jesus-follower will have a spirit of humility – knowing they are not intrinsically better than the person who is being gossiped about, empathy – for both the frustration of the speaker and his/ her subject, compassion – sorrow for the weakness of the human race, and grace – giving kindness where none is deserved.

Will the disciple of Jesus be a gossiper? Surely not. But the reason will have little or nothing to do with the law. The Jesus-follow wants what is best for the other person and has a desire for their healing and their well-being. Tearing the other person down with gossip is not an option – not because they can’t or shouldn’t, but just because they won’t.

Not gossiping doesn’t require trying hard not to gossip. It requires a transformation of your heart.

There are many very hard things Jesus asks us to do. Focusing on trying hard to obey the law is not one of them.  But if we do the hard things He asks, our lives will show the fruit of His work in us.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a right spirit within me.  Ps 51:10

Jesus is the hero and it’s good news!

 

 

 

Nuggets

If a person can’t be part of the solution, they shouldn’t be part of the discussion.

This one has sure buttoned down my hatch.  It is the essence of a conversation I had a few months ago with a friend. Sometimes part of the “solution” is venting. But if you find that “venting” extends to more than a very small number of close confidences, you’re probably participating in a disdained but popular activity called “gossiping”.
 

You are wasting your time trying to explain your reasons to someone who has already decided they don’t like your actions.

And why do we feel obliged to explain ourselves so often anyway? Are we needing the other person’s approval? Are we not confident in our actions? Is the other person’s approval of more value to us than being true to ourselves? Are we defending ourselves needlessly? Are we gossiping again?  Great advice handed to me by a wise friend.
 

Feelings are not “good” or “bad”. But how you react to your feelings may be good or bad.

Maybe you didn’t grow up thinking that any feelings were “bad”. I did. Thinking they were “bad” then produced guilt, because, being human and all… I inevitably felt the feelings. It’s been quite freeing to realize feelings are not good nor bad. They just ARE. And once I recognize them, I am then free to decide what to do with them. Amazingly elementary – but very powerful.  I would have to attribute this nugget to my grief counselor.
 

We make the best decisions we can at the time we have to make them with the tools, information and life-skills we have.

Again, the grief counselor at work here. I came across a very similar idea but worded differently in To Kill a Mockingbird. That statement is slathered in grace. It can be applied to ourselves or to those around us. It is helpful in retrospect or “live”.
 

Rarely do we intend to hurt someone else with our actions – but we all have or eventually will.

That’s my own assumption. It goes hand-in-hand with the prior statement. I think hurtful people are doing the best they can. And at the times I’ve been hurtful, I was doing the best I could. That doesn’t mean hurtful behavior is excused, but it does mean we should be more willing to forgive ourselves and others.
 

Forgiveness and acceptance of mistreatment are not equivalent.

There are some very helpful books on what forgiveness is and how to reach that stage by Dr. Luskin.  It is a process that is most healing for the person doing the forgiving. The person who was forgiven doesn’t even need to ask for it, know about it, or accept the forgiveness.  There are also excellent boundary books written by Drs. Cloud and Townsend.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you approve of the hurtful action nor that you will allow it again. The tricky part is that there was quite possibly something about you that kept you from using proper boundaries in time to avoid the injury in the first place. Which leads me to the next nugget…
 

There are always two sides to a pancake no matter how thin it gets.

Anyone who thinks they haven’t contributed to a disagreement they were a part of doesn’t know themselves. For myself, I’ve found it’s generally a problem with a log in my eye that makes it hard for me to see myself. I first heard it phrased in regards to a pancake from Pastor Rich.
 

We’re all messing up our kids.

Gleaned from one of my friends. Unfortunately even though we recognize what we wish could have been different in our own upbringing, we are most certainly creating something that is less than ideal for our kids. We can learn new behaviors through facing our own fears and reprogramming. But it is the process of a lifetime. We won’t be “done” with our own learning before we die, so we won’t have it all together in time to raise our kids even as ideally as we possibly could- which would still be short of perfect. In spite of this dismal thought, I believe we can empower our kids to find the answers. We can be a living example of courage, compassion and connection – which, according to Brene Brown, are the keys to wholehearted living.
 

Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. … Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

Brene Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection. Get the book. Or watch a short video clip here.

Three Little Words

There are many three word combinations that are meaningful in our lives.  “I love you.” That’s probably the classic phrase people immediately think of. “Jesus loves me.” There’s another power-packed combination that can change your life.

Here are a few more three word combinations that can be life-changing: “I forgive you.” “I am forgiven.” “I am sorry.”  “I was wrong.” Or Christ’s final words on the cross, “It is finished!”  All are three word combinations that can have a huge impact in our lives.

I started reading a book last night written by Scott Peck, whom I believe will likely be my next favorite author.  The first paragraph of chapter one was so thought-provoking that I would like to share it with you in its entirety.   I’ve memorized it.  Here it is:

“Life is difficult.”

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I read that and stopped. Really? This best-selling book started with an entire paragraph that consisted of just three words? I allowed myself to pause with the author and let the profoundness of those three simple words sink in.  I had to agree. Yes, life is difficult.

As I continued reading, I realized this could be an important concept to accept in my life. “Life is difficult.” I know that, so why am I surprised when it is? Do I just know it or have I accepted it?  Do I fight against it?  Or have I embraced it as the way this world is? Do I try to make this life something it wasn’t meant to be?

The possibilities of how I will respond to situations are entirely different when I’ve accepted that one premise. It moves me quickly through any reaction to life and on to action.  “Yes, this or that happened. Life is difficult. Now what do I need to do? What can I learn from it? Where do I go from here?” It makes life more intentional and less emotion driven. It opens up potential for setting aside hurt. It allows more room for self-forgiveness. It quiets the call to “fix it” and encourages me to control only what I can – myself.  It removes the shock and drama.  It decreases any urge to gossip. What big news is there to tell?  If I expect life to be difficult and it turns out that it is, where’s the juicy morsel to spread? It doesn’t exist anymore. Life is difficult – that’s all.

Life is difficult.  I look forward to reading the rest of “The Road Less Traveled” by Scott Peck.  In the mean time, here are some words from my all-time favorite Author: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”