The Houses of Parliament, London, England

Sometimes love is a better teacher than justice

Have you ever been driving and someone behind you is riding your bumper and acting like an absolute idiot? I’m usually okay at controlling what I say, but when it comes to bad drivers, a lot of my inhibitions fly out the window. Bad drivers upset me worse than almost any other person, mainly because in their irresponsibility they not only endanger their own lives but the lives of other people around them.

So after the guy who was riding your bumper needlessly for the last three miles zooms around you and disappears down the road at 90 mph, how do you feel? Relieved? Or vindictive? I hate to admit it, but a major part of me leans more toward the vindictive side. Then, suppose you encounter this driver again a little ways down the road, stuck on the shoulder with a flat tire or an empty gas tank. How do you feel then?

I wish I were a good enough Christian to tell you that I would pull over and have compassion on the poor idiot, but I’m not. Just being honest, I’d probably drive on and feel justified. After all, he’s getting the least of what he deserves. A flat tire or an empty gas tank isn’t a big deal, and it’s the least punishment he deserves for his reckless behavior.

On first blush, that’s probably the reaction everyone would have. That’s probably what any other driver would do. If the weather is okay and a gas station is close at hand, why not? Today’s verse tells us why not and reminds me that we’re not supposed to react like everyone else. As a Christ-follower, we are supposed to love.

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

The Houses of Parliament, London, England

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 13:6.

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

The word it in this verse is love, but not just regular love. This is agape love, the word for the kind of love that only comes from God. It’s the kind of love that allows us to love people who hurt us, who use us, who betray us, and it’s how we–as Christ followers–are supposed to live.

The way I see it, this is different from a speeder being pulled over or a drunk driver being arrested. To me, it’s good to see justice done. It’s good to see that people will be held accountable for their actions, but that is something that a law enforcement officer has to do. It’s not my job to determine crime and punishment for people just like me. Rather, it’s my job to love others no matter what they’ve done to me.

It’s easy for me to rejoice when someone else receives what I think is owed them. It’s not as easy to love that person in spite of how they hurt me or how they offended me or how they inconvenienced me.

Yes, my gut instinct is to leave a bad driver on the side of the road. Maybe he’ll think about his carelessness as he’s waiting for someone to come along and help him. But as Christ followers we’re not supposed to live by gut instinct. We’re supposed to live as Christ lived. We’re supposed to do things the way Christ would have done them. And what would Christ do in this situation? He’d stop and help the person in His path, no matter whether He thought they deserved their life lesson or not. Why? Because that’s love. And love is a far better teacher than vindictive self-righteousness any day.

So who is that person who drives you crazy? What are the circumstances that make you angry? And when do you want to sit back and watch as someone gets their just desserts? Try thinking about it from a different perspective. Try thinking about that person with the love that comes from God. Do they look any different to you now?

God is in charge of justice and revenge. God is in charge of doling out punishment. That’s not our arena, unless you’re a law enforcement officer or a member of the courts who are charged with upholding the law in our society. I don’t fit into one of those categories. I’m just an average Christ follower with a shamefully powerful tendency toward road rage. My job is to love people no matter what they’ve done to me.

You never know how God is going to use you. Sometimes love can teach lessons better than justice. Who knows? Maybe that person you stop to help would listen to you much sooner than they would listen to an authority. Maybe your one act of love helps save that person’s life as well as the lives of other drivers around him.

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Delusion, indolence, and the American Way

I don’t want to go to work today. So, I am going to stay home and watch DVDs of Batman: The Animated Series. And I’m going to believe that my boss won’t care if I don’t show up today. After all, she’s just another person working at the company, and she doesn’t have any real authority over me. Boss is just a title, and it doesn’t mean anything. And it’s not like they can fire me. Right?

What would you think if I said something like that? And what would you think if I said something like this:

  • “My seatbelt rubs my neck raw and it’s more trouble than it’s worth, so I don’t wear it anymore. People are just exaggerating about how it can save your life in a wreck.”

Or what about this:

  • “All the stuff people say about smoking cigarettes is so overrated. People just make a big deal out of it because they can. Maybe it’ll increase my chances for cancer, but they won’t kill me. And it’s my choice to smoke or not and it makes me feel better, so I’ll smoke if I want to.”

So . . . are you paying attention yet? If I were to say any of those things, I think people would believe I’ve finally had that nervous breakdown my brain has been threatening. But these statements are fairly common in our culture, don’t you think? I don’t know about you but I hear things like this all the time.

I don’t care who you are. If you think smoking won’t hurt you, you’re an idiot. I’m sorry to be so brutal . . . . well, no, I take it back. I did a post a little while ago about saying you’re sorry when you really aren’t . . . . so, I won’t apologize. I’m sorry if you get your feelings hurt, but I need to be honest here and I’ll do my best to speak the truth in love.

When you smoke, you’re inhaling chemicals into your lungs and you’re holding them there. That just doesn’t sound healthy to me. People die of smoke inhalation in fires all the time, and we still have this concept that smoking is okay?

The interesting thing about smoking, though, is that people who smoke oftentimes know the risks involved and they just don’t care. I don’t know if they think they’re like Superman — that the consequences of smoking don’t apply to them? Or maybe they need the drugs in the cigarettes more than they care about living. I don’t know.

And what about wearing your seatbelt? I’d say it’s pretty obvious that seatbelts save lives. I’m not a paramedic, but common sense suggests that seatbelt prevent people from getting hurt worse in an accident that could claim their lives. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t been wearing my seatbelt when I had my wreck. I probably would have been splattered all over the pavement.

Again, if straightforward communication about this offends you, don’t take it personally. I’m just trying to get people to think.

And what about your boss and your job? I don’t know about you, but if I suddenly decided that I didn’t feel like going to work and decided to stay home (especially without notifying anyone), I’d be in deep trouble. And my boss wouldn’t care that I’ve had a horrible week. I have responsibilities, and I can’t just drop everything and do what I want to do. They hired me for a reason. And they absolutely can fire me if they want to. Telling myself anything different is moronic.

And that’s the point I’m getting to this morning.

Any thinking person can take these three examples and see immediately what the right thing to do is. Any person who is thinking can see the truth here.

Smoking will kill you. Not wearing your seatbelt is inviting danger. Shirking your responsibilities at work will get you fired. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself to rationalize your actions in these situations. This is the truth.

Someone once told me that a statement becomes truth when you believe it.

That’s a load of balogna. (It’s actually a load of something else, but I won’t say that here.)

Truth by its very nature is exclusive, and it doesn’t matter how much you deny it, if something is true, it’s true whether you believe it or not. And you deciding that you don’t want to believe it is like a child having a temper tantrum because they want to believe a red balloon is blue.

This is today’s verse:

Psalm 14:1

1 Only fools say in their hearts,
      “There is no God.”
   They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;
      not one of them does good!

I know people who say that there is no God. Most of the time, they’re like people who say the things listed above. The know the truth. But accepting the truth means they have to be accountable to Someone who knows more than they do. So it’s easier to deny the truth and make up some other story to believe.

The Bible says those people are fools.

The sky is red. The grass is purple. Drinking doesn’t hurt you. Having sex before marriage is a good way to know if you’re compatible with someone else. A baby is just a wad of tissue until it’s fully born. The terrorists on September 11 had every right to attack the U.S. because they were doing what was right for them.

Evidence of God’s existence is everywhere. People who say they don’t believe in Him are lying to themselves because they want to live in a way that is contrary to what God has declared is right. It’s the same as knowing that smoking will kill you and doing it anyway. It’s the same as driving around without wearing a seatbelt. It’s the same as not going to work when you know your boss will be angry.

But it is your choice. Absolutely. But Newton was right in more ways than one. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You push something, and it will push back at you. Every choice you make has consequences. And you might not experience those consequences until you’re a grandmother or a grandfather. But they will come.

You can lie to yourself all you want, but it doesn’t change what’s true.

I’ve been staring at my computer for 15 minutes

Maybe I’m foggy today. Maybe I’m feeling too much and thinking too much and trying to understand too many things at once. But I feel somewhat like a dry well this morning, like if you reached in for a cool drink of water all anyone is going to get is a bucket of mud. I guess there’s just a lot going on.

The verse for today is a great one.

John 4:24

24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

 And it certainly is a good thing to remember. God is Spirit.

Knowing who (or what) someone is usually determines how we respond or act toward it. I mean, knowing someone is a king means you shouldn’t run up and try to hug them or chew with your mouth open in front of them. Stuff like that.

I think about all the idols people worshipped in the past (although people worship just as many idols today). They did all sorts of ridiculous things for gods made of rock and wood and metal. Horrific things. Ghastly things that make me feel sick and wonder how people could ever do anything like it for any reason whatsoever.

It’s amazing to me that all God asks from us is trust. If you really get down to it, that’s all He asks. Trust Him. Trust Him when He says He’ll bless you, protect you, never abandon you.

It’s odd. And it’s different than any religion in the world (maybe I should say any other religion in the world, but that would imply that God is attached to a religious system; He’s not).

So it makes sense that worshipping Him might be a little different too. So many people have so many ideas about what worship is. Some people think it only happens in church. Some people think that if you haven’t got your hands up in the air, it isn’t real. Some people think that there needs to be fainting and healing and shouting for it to be real.

I’m not an expert on this, but worship is an attitude. It’s more than something you say or do. It’s how you live. It’s what you think about. It’s the reason you do anything you do, say anything you say.

My incredible friend Lance Cummins once said that worship is telling God how much He means to us. It’s giving Him the glory and the credit for everything in our lives and thanking Him for everything we have and don’t have. It’s not just singing. It’s not just doing good deed. You can worship God when you’re standing still. You can worship God when you’re singing or when you’re dancing or when you’re playing an instrument. You can worship God at church, but you can also worship in your home, in your place of work, in your relationship with other people.

You can worship when you’re having a great day. And you can worship when the day is long and cold and dark and depressing and it feels like there’s no end to it. You can worship Him when you’re sad. When you feel discouraged. When you feel alone. When you make mistakes. (I’m so glad we can worship Him when we make mistakes; if we couldn’t, how could we ever worship Him? We make mistakes all the time.)

Worship is an attitude. Worship is a lifestyle. And it’s not getting all emotional and teary at the drop of a hat. It’s not jumping up and down and hooting and hollering and screaming and falling down. It’s not chaos.

Worship is the purposeful act of directing your thoughts toward God when you don’t feel like it. Worship is trusting that God forgives you even when you make an unforgiveable mistake. Worship is giving Him the credit for the work you think you have done all by yourself. Worship is living a life for Him and not hiding it.

Worship is so much more than anyone ever thinks it is. And what you worship will give you something in return. It will either give you peace or it will eventually take it away.

So to me it’s better to trust God, knowing that He is able to make the circumstances of our lives all work together for our good and His glory, than to trust in anything else, whether it’s my job or my finances or my family or my church or my pastor or my friends or my insurance company or the government. I won’t have my job forever. I won’t be secure in my finances forever. My family won’t be around forever and neither will my church or my pastor or my friends.

God is Spirit. Worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Worship Him with everything He made you to be. Trust Him. He really does know what He’s doing, and what’s wonderful about God is that He can see the entire picture of our lives, every little detail, and He knows exactly how everything is going to work out. And it’s going to be good.