This life is full of oxymorons (and I don’t mean morons). I am referring to the fact that we are surrounded by glorious contradictions. Probably one of the greatest of these is realizing that the things that bother me most about other people are also characteristics that I possess. For example, I can be frustrated with someone for not being a good listener, but the whole reason that frustrates me is because I want to talk and be heard.
I think that’s why Jesus included Matthew 7:1-5 in His sermon on the mount. This is what it says:
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
It is easy to look at someone else and come up with a list of things that I would like to change about them. However, it is much harder to ask God to honestly show me what needs to change about me. It is humbling to come face to face with the brokenness inside of me and realize that I, just like everyone else, need grace.
The Bible has a lot to say about humility. 1 Peter 5:5b-6 says: “And all of you, serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud but favors the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.'”
Probably one of the greatest values of NorthAmerican culture and well-being is having good boundaries and healthy standards for how we allow others to treat us. I am not saying that idea is wrong in and of itself. However, I do believe that we can take that value to an extreme that becomes a barrier in our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
When I attempt to educate God on how unfair life and people can be sometimes, He simply directs me to 1 Corinthians 13.
I realize often that I am a little off-track in the things that I want to be a part of my life. I want to be full of the Spirit, to prophesy in Jesus’ name, and to know the heart of God. I want my life to be a sweet perfume of sacrifice to God. However, one quality that I often forget is love. This chapter clearly says that I can be perfect in all these other areas, but if I do not have love in my life, I am just a super-obnoxious noisemaker that does nothing and is nothing of value.
What a conviction verses 4-7 are: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
It is amazing to me how I can sometimes act completely opposite of these verses and feel totally justified in my actions and feelings.
Verse 11 says, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” Have I truly disregarded the childish ways of responding to hurtful situations? I have learned that being right is not necessarily the highest value; being loving is. There have been some big times in my life when I have definitely not been right nor was I loving. However, it is always my responsibility to give grace to others, regardless of my circumstances or my feelings in that moment. This is an area of my life that God will be perfecting for a long time.
If I say that I am living for eternity, then I should be seeking things that will not fade away or change with time. Chapter 13 says that prophecy and knowledge only show part of the picture and will one day become useless, but love will last forever. In fact there are three things that will last forever: faith, hope, and love – “and the greatest of these is love.”
It is a lesson in humility when we are called to put love into action. It is a lesson in humility when we are called to consider others above ourselves. It is a lesson in humility when we realize that we are not looking through perfect lenses at others, and that the Bible has a point when it says that we will be judged with the measure we use to judge others. So it is best to not judge at all. It is a lesson in humility when I realize that I don’t always have to be right – and often I am not. What matters most is the way in which I am treating another child of God.
Love is not a feeling; but rather it is a choice. I choose to be patient and kind. I choose to not be jealous or boastful or proud or rude. I choose to not demand my own way. I choose to calm myself down and not be irritable and I choose to throw the list of offenses in the trash can, whether or not that person ever fully realizes “what they have done”. I choose to rejoice in truth. I choose to never give up, to never lose faith, to always be hopeful, and to endure through every circumstance. It may sound impossible, but do you know how it is possible? This is the same kind of love that we have received from Christ and continue to receive each day of our lives. As I am filled with His love every day by spending time in His presence, I am able to pour it out on those around me, even when from a human standpoint it may seem hard or impossible. Even when it breaks my heart. Even when I fight feelings that say it is simply unfair. Love isn’t concerned about fairness; rather it is concerned about truth. And the truth is that love should win every battle we face and should pour out of us in every situation.
There are some things in this life that are not my responsibility. I am not responsible for the actions of others, and I cannot change anyone. I am, however, responsible for my actions, and I am responsible for my own personal growth and relationship with Christ. It would do me a great deal of good to take my eyes off others and their faults, and simply fix my gaze on Jesus, who in perfect love gave His life for me when I least deserved it. He bridged the gap I could not cross. This perfect love wants to sand down the rough areas of my life – the ways that often I still do not deserve His love – so that I might be a healing balm to this world rather than an obnoxious noisemaker. If I want my life to truly make a difference, I need to learn the lesson of humility and find out what it means to love as Christ loves me.