July 23, 2014

A Matter of Worth and What Really Matters

What does it take to truly make one’s self humble? What does it take to make one’s self small? What does it take to truly die to self? I suggest many do not know, myself included. We know Jesus did it and we even intellectually assent to this fact, but can we in our sinful selves do the same? Do we know how to take an insult and not even feel the need to respond to it let alone get angry about it? Do we know how to understand our lack of meekness enough to realize that if someone does insult or demean us, that there is enough humility to not even take offense to the slight? Do we think too highly of ourselves that we believe the attacks or slights are not deserved or warranted? Do we value ourselves instead of others too much? I posit we all do to some extent. Some folks value themselves way too much. I suggest that I do and for this I repent almost daily and regret my sinful nature.

I perceive many of us have too much pride and too much sense of self-importance to allow a slight to slide and ignore it. It is in our very sinful nature to not be able to overlook a personal insult. It doesn’t matter if it comes from our parents, spouses, children, friends or even strangers. As a matter of fact, the slights sting more when they come from those we know because they know us better.

We think way too highly of ourselves. God gives us our value and God will defend our value in the eternal scale of things, we need not defend ourselves. God is also capable of defending Himself. He doesn’t necessarily need our help. Do we really need to perceive everything as a slight or transgression against us? I think not.

“Forgive us our trespasses,” comes first in the Lord’s Prayer. We then ask that others might not, “transgress against us.” The Lord praying this prayer in this order seems to be telling us to look inward for the change first before looking outward for the change when dealing with transgressions. Perhaps they were not even intended as slights. In other cases, slights directed our way could’ve possibly been solicited by our very own actions or transgression towards others as a retaliation. If we wish to reconcile relationships and overcome interpersonal strife or adversarial relationships it nearly always needs to begin with ourselves. 

The "you" really starts with me. The Lord knows (and now you do too) that this is the core of my biggest spiritual battle. I fail most profoundly here. It is here that I fully engage Romans 7 and it eviscerates me. The enemy in this instance is not Satan. The enemy here lies solely within. I am my own worst enemy. This is where the word of God pierces my heart most acutely.

I struggle horribly with this. I seem to have an inflated self-worth and in this way I am dangerously and sinfully idolatrous. I am idolatrous exactly because I often want revenge before I wish to forgive. Because I often feel the sting of an insult or a criticism before realizing I probably deserve it as a sinner. I really don’t deserve esteem from others…I make myself a god (little “g”). How? I assume my feelings which have been tainted by the fall and trigger my emotions (usually anger) are more important than obeying God. How am I not obeying? My first inclination is to not forgive...it is to return fire. This is clearly disobedience, it is clearly sin.

I am not getting meek. I am not getting humble. I am not getting myself small enough. I am not making any attempt to serve and be a servant. Invariably, feel I deserve respect I am not getting and by getting angry about it and fighting back to try and get it I am attempting forcefully to get it. At times I am vehemently set on righting a perceived wrong. I don't just want respect (that I don't really deserve), I demand it. It is this very fact that tells me (and others) that I absolutely do not deserve it!

I will often stand there and say, “That person had no right to slight me that way!” Please understand I never once said that someone hammering me, beating up on me or wronging me was right or acceptable. In terms of right and wrong and justice, it probably is wrong. This may be true but for my walk with Christ and my salvation, my concern should not be with getting even or righting the wrong. That is not the issue. Justice and vengeance when required or needed is the Lord’s not mine.

The issue is this: Am I doing things to become more like Christ? Usually the answer for me is no. Did Jesus retaliate when He was wronged on His way to the Cross? No.

Luke 23:34 ~ “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”And they cast lots to divide his garments.”

Scripture is replete with examples that follow Jesus' lead here. To name but a few...

Leviticus 19:18 ~ “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Proverbs 20:22 ~ “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you"

Matthew 5:38-42 ~ “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Romans 12:19 ~ “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:21 ~ “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Once folks realize this, a paradigm shift is certain to happen in many people’s lives. I pray it is beginning to shift in mine as I have recently stumbled over this. It was lying in front of me the whole time. I never really thought about what it meant to be truly meek, truly humble and what it looked like to “get small” in my life. I struggle to this very moment with this issue.

It is a heart condition, not an intellectual understanding or attitude. It is an act of grace from God that allows me to have grace towards others when I am under sin and under satanic oppression. The very nature of becoming a true servant (which the Bible reinforces) drives me to get under others to lift them up. This is true of even a leader. It is especially true of a leader because it is a leader that needs to provide others with what they need to lead also. True leaders serve and are servant leaders…like Jesus. 

Yep, you got it! It's just like the old Police song from Sting, "I will turn your face to alabaster, when you find your  Servant is your Master." Understanding the true nature of a servant will change me like being turned to stone when it finally sinks in. The very nature of a servant is to get under others to lift them up and empower them. This obviously requires that a servant decrease their stature and status and humble themselves to make that happen. There is no other way allotted in God's Kingdom. To be able to help people in the trenches to get out of their trenches or help them fight in the trench, I need to get into the trenches with them. This requires dirty hands and worn-out shoe soles. It requires a heart change. Am I lifting up brothers and sisters or smashing them down like a subordinate with my actions and words? I have done too much smashing and not enough lifting up and often continue to do so in my sinful nature.

We really need to ask ourselves, “Is it worth starting a fight over?” It is the old adage come to light: "You need to pick and choose your battles". Nearly all of the battles I feel I need to wage to defend my “honor”, maintain “status” or preserve my “respect” are merely geared towards what happens in the “here and now”. How I respond tells me and all those observing exactly what kind of Chrisrian I really am. Am I the real deal or am I just a hypocritical idiot? Sadly, I fall towards the latter more than the former. I fall into the Devil's trap constantly

The truth is clear...honor, status and respect from humans only really matter in this world. A world filled with humans that are doing what? They are passing away. Some of these attributes which the world holds in such high regard only really matter in my world which is limited to the inside of my own skull (i.e.: ego). In reality I am trying to defend a house of cards on eroding beachhead on a windy day. Why not worry about the stuff that really matters and will last eternally? I am not as important as I believe I am. My importance and worth is given to me by Jesus Christ. Let Him defend me if need be. As for my actions, I just need to obey Him. 

Furthermore, to lay ourselves down to the attack of our enemy and not fight back effectively disarms our opponents like a sheep remaining silent as it is led to the slaughter. How? It invalidates the truth of their accusations by our neutrality in our own self-defense. It puts the onus of proof to prove that truth on the accuser. If it is a lie, they will be able to produce no truth to validate their point. Nearly all of us struggle with this because we have been taught since we are old enough to learn that we have "rights". Slaves do not have " rights". We either submit to one of two masters. We either submit to sin which tells us we have rights (which we dont), or we submit to Christ and forfeit them in an effort to follow Him to do His will! What's His will? To forgive other's their trespasses! In the end, God becomes our vindicator because He sees all, and knows all and will eventually judge all in perfect justice.

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