Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 18 March 20:
Mark 2:23, 24 — “One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’”
The truth of our character is revealed when we are tested, and God will test us so that we may be convicted by the Holy Spirit to grow in Christ-like character. Consider the character revealed by Christ today: Jesus and his disciples were so hungry, having invested everything they had in service to others, they were plucking heads of grain to eat — a lot of work for very little food, something impoverished people would do. The Pharisees, who lived luxurious lives in their lack of service to others, took advantage of the opportunity to criticize Jesus and His disciples. Imagine you are exhausted and famished after a hard days’ work in selfless service to others when you are criticized by a self-righteous hypocrite. How would you respond? Jesus calmly instructs the Pharisees. Would that have been your move? How do you act when your hard work is underappreciated by co-workers, family or friends who might have done far less than you?
Consider the two opposite potential approaches presented in Galatians 5 –
– The ‘natural’ human response — enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, etc. (Galatians 5:20)
– The ‘supernatural’ (beyond our nature) spirit-led response — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23)
The Greatest Command is love. What does love require? “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
To whom are we to respond with love? “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
When you are tested by others in your moments of mental, emotional and physical weakness, Jesus says, “Deny [yourself] and take up [your] cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Don’t miss the lessons of your daily failures. We all fail daily to love as we should, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and should fail forward, growing in sanctification. Pay attention to how you respond in the ‘little things’ throughout the day, your response serving as a glimpse into your character. Catch your immediate, internal reaction when you are slighted, offended, or frustrated. Consider these convicting words from C. S. Lewis –
“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”
You can’t fix what you aren’t willing to humbly honest about. Don’t make excuses for your failures in love, repent, seek forgiveness, receive forgiveness, and strive in grace to walk more closely with Jesus into the future.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Mar 20: Today, examine yourself, your thoughts, attitudes, and behavior as compared to the requirements of love. Inspect your fruit, but also your roots, the real “why” behind your behavior, which will have something to do with your relationship with Jesus, like the relationship between the vine and the branch (John 15). Don’t just seek behavior modification, pray for heart change.