Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

What kind of life do you want to live?

I’d like to think I’m a fairly patient person, but the people who know me best know that I’m not really. I can be patient if I try really really hard, but most of the time it takes so much effort that I’d rather just run around like an idiot until something happens that I can exert some kind of control over. Even though I accomplish absolutely nothing, running around like a madwoman at least makes me feel like I can change things that are beyond me. Anyone else ever feel like that?

Well, you’re not alone. And neither am I. I’m willing to bet everyone has been there and done that at some point in their lives, but that’s not the way we’re commanded to live. We aren’t supposed to plow through life, running over anything and anyone who gets in our way.

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Grasshopper on a windowscreen at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:2.

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ouch. Anyone else hear my toes crunching as that verse hops all over them?

I think it’s really interesting that we’re commanded to be humble and gentle all the time, followed by being patient with each other. Haven’t you noticed that impatient people usually aren’t very humble or gentle? And the opposite is true too. The proud and cruel aren’t very patient. I think these are three character qualities that go hand in hand (or hand in hand in hand).

I hate being interrupted, especially when I’m in “the zone” at work or at my home office. But that’s part of my everyday life. So I have to get used to it, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And I honestly do fight the urge to snap at people when they interrupt me because I don’t think they understand exactly how difficult it is to get to a point where I’m being productive only to have them drag me out of it to answer their question.

But since when is my work about me? My work is about my company and doing the best job I can for them. Even my personal writing exists to glorify God. But that’s what that attitude says. “You shouldn’t interrupt me because what I’m doing is more important than what you need.” Yeah? How humble is that?

And once I’m all stirred up, it’s just a short hop and a jump away before I get snappy and mean. And then I turn into a very un-gentle person. But I can’t tell you if this stems from my impatience or if my impatience comes about because of my lack of humility and gentleness. What I do know for sure is that all three of those characteristics—impatience, pride, and meanness—don’t represent the kind of life I want to live. And they sure don’t represent the life a Christian should be living, no matter who you are or what kind of situation you’re in.

The best thing we can do for ourselves and for the people around us is learning to recognize those traits and doing something to stop them. Maybe you don’t mean to feel one or all of them once, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep feeling them. And you certainly don’t have to base your life around them.

Always be humble. Think about what you do before you do it. Don’t automatically assume that people owe you something just by virtue of who you are. And even if they do, think twice before demanding they give it to you.

Always be gentle. There’s never a call for cruelty. There’s never a reason to be mean. There’s never a purpose for tearing people down with your words or your actions. This is one I have to watch because I have a sarcastic streak a mile wide, and sometimes my sarcasm gets the better of me. It’s one thing to tease; it’s something else to hurt. Think about what you say before you say it. You might save yourself and someone else a lot of pain.

And be patient. Just because you know something is true or right doesn’t mean other people have had the same opportunities to learn that you have. Just because your life experiences have taught you valuable wisdom doesn’t mean that other people are stupid because they don’t know the same thing. And just because someone is getting on your nerves doesn’t mean they’re doing it on purpose. Maybe they’re trying to help you. They might be trying to help you into a nervous breakdown, but at least their intentions are good. Chill out. Back off. Calm down. Take a minute or two to refocus and try again.

Maybe we don’t know what causes pride, meanness, or impatience (other than our own sin nature), but there’s plenty of explanation about what encourages patience, humility, and gentleness.

Love.

Seems to be a running theme in the Bible, doesn’t it?

Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Why? Because we love each other. And we love each other because Jesus loved us first.

It’s not easy. Oh boy, it’s not easy. But I guarantee life is so much better if you listen.

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Pink flowers

Being patient with other Christians

Do you ever get frustrated with other Christians? I do. There are so many Christians out there who profess Christ but don’t follow Him. There are so many Christians who’ve been in church for years who have no concept of what true service is. There are so many Christians who know the Bible but haven’t figured out how to apply it to their life.

And I get frustrated with them. So today’s verse is really, truly aimed directly at me.

Pink flowers

Pink Flowers at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Ephesians 4:2

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Ouch. Do you ever read verses that step on your toes? This is one for me because I really struggle with this. I’m usually quick to point out the faults of other Christians, and I’m not always gentle about it. And I know I’m not patient either. I don’t know if it’s because I keep thinking that if they would make the obvious choice and do what the Bible says, their struggles will be over or what. But it’s very easy for me to criticize and it’s very easy for me to be impatient.

I have high expectations for God’s people. Not because they’re superheros but because they have access to God, because through Him they can do everything, and because they don’t have to settle for ordinary. People talk about the mission’s trips and the experiences I have gone through as though they can’t do anything similar. Well, yes, they can. There’s nothing I have done that someone else can’t do–and do a better job at! But other Christians convince themselves that great things are done by great people, and that’s not true. Great things are done by God, and if we ask, He’ll let us tag along.

And I lose my patience easily with those sorts of comments (and with those sorts of Christians) because they insist on putting God in a box. But this verse says that’s now how a Christian is supposed to act.

Even if a Christian gets off track, although it is my job to try to set them straight, I need to do it gently and humbly. And even if another Christian isn’t off track and they’re just driving me crazy, I need to be patient with them. Why?

Well, beyond the obvious answer of “the Bible says so,” God has also been patient with me. I’m not perfect. Far from it. And when I make mistakes, God is always there waiting to pick me up and set me back on my feet again. And if God can be that patient with me, why can’t I be that patient with my brothers and my sisters in Christ?

I need to be patient with other believers because I love them. Love is what sets us apart, makes us stand out in the crowd of inscrutable religions. And traditional Christians aren’t very good at it, let’s just be honest.  The Christians I’ve met who grasp this concept are radical, revolutionary thinkers who break every mold they come across.

I truly believe that many people won’t have chosen not to follow Christ have done so because of their experience with Christians. Let’s be real here. The Jesus many Christians paint of picture of with their lives isn’t very flattering. He either has no moral standards at all or He hates everyone. And if that’s the Jesus we are trying to introduce people to, it’s no wonder that the world doesn’t want anything to do with Him. And what sort of family are we asking people to come into? A family that has impossible expectations? A family that demands you pull yourself up by your own bootstraps while they throw rocks at you? A family that demands perfection from you every moment of every day and doesn’t allow for any faults or weaknesses?

Is that truly an alluring concept? Is that really the kind of family we want to belong in?

I’m not saying look away from sin. Sin needs to be addressed when it appears, and it needs to be addressed with gentleness and humility because without God’s grace you could end up in the same situation.

But I’m not talking about sin. I’m talking about everyday relationships. When a Christian you’re around slips up and isn’t acting very Christiany, what do you do? Do you yell at them? Do you call them a fake? Do you puff yourself up and tell them what’s wrong in their lives?

Yeah, none of those options sound gentle or humble.

When that happens, apply this verse. Be patient because you love them. If you feel you need to mention it, be gentle and humble about it. And after the conversation is done, don’t hold it over their heads. Let it go. Forgive them for not being perfect because you’re in the same boat.