Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Grace of Giving Up

Paul writes, "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand"(Philippians 4:5).

Disunity comes because we're determined to have our own way. "Only by pride comes contention" (Proverbs 13:10). If we insist on our own rights and
refuse to give ground, controversy and conflict unavoidably follow.

We're not called to sacrifice right principles, of course, and we do have
rights, but for the sake of peace we're called to yield our rights, our
preferences, our opinions, our position, prestige, and power.

What's called for is "gentleness" —epieikes is Paul’s word. It means a
gracious, patient, forbearing spirit—a powerful force that
subdues anger and stubborn self-will.

But, you say, if I don't stand up for my rights I'll lose out. No, "the Lord
is at hand." He is standing by and will never permit his children to suffer
eternal loss. He will give you grace and power for the present and will
compensate you fully for all you have forfeited through courtesy and
kindness. "I tell you the truth," Jesus said "no one who has given up…will
fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come,
eternal life" (Luke 18:29,30).


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A follow-up to my thoughts on silence (Psalm 37)

In Psalm 38 David describes a series of personal attacks by his critics, in
the midst of which he finds no human help:

My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay
far away. (Psalm 38:11).

(Ironic, isn't it: The more needy we are, the less help we naturally attract
from family and friends. Neediness is off-putting to most folks; only the
gospel corrects that injustice.)

So...David is abandoned to his opponents’ efforts to undo him.

Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my
ruin; all day long they plot deception. (38:12).

Once again, David's reaction is silence:

I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his
mouth; I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no
reply. I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God (38:13).

There is a direct contrast here between the rants of David's opponents (vs.
12) and his utter stillness (Heb: "But as for me, I am like a deaf man...")--a stillness based on the
fact that God alone would answer his critics in due time, a response that mirrors
our supreme example:

Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow
His steps: "Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He
suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges
justly..." (1 Peter 2:21-23).

I read Psalm 35 this morning and was struck again by the thought that
silence is almost always the best response to criticism. We can and should
correct people when they misrepresent us, but there is great depth and
dignity in meeting disapproval with silence.

David summarizes the actions of his critics in 11-16

Malicious witnesses rise up; They ask me things that I do not know (charge
me with sins and faults I know nothing about).

They reward me evil for good, To the sorrow of my soul (No good deed goes
unpunished, as they say).

But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled
myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart (I kept
praying for them).

I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily,
as one who mourns for his mother.

But in my stumbling (at the first sign of weakness) they rejoiced And
gathered together; Cripples (like me) gathered against me, And I did not
know it (It was done behind my back) They tore at me and did not cease
(attacking my character);

Like court jesters (who mock others), They gnashed at me with their
teeth (tore my reputation to shreds).

Does this sound familiar? Those we've suffered with and deeply cared for are
often the very folks that turn against us. (I've never fully understood that
phenomenon, but it may be that loving, pastoral care raises people's
expectations to the point that they (their expectations) become utterly
unrealistic—for some we become the parent they never had—and any slip
becomes a monumental betrayal.) It is worth noting that this psalm is put
into Jesus' mouth and describes the way those he loved turned against him
(John 15:25). It's good to recall that "the servant is not above his master…"

In the face of this scathing critique David put his soul in God's hands for
his judgment and vindication (vs. 22-24) and left it there. He describes
himself as one of the "quiet ones in the land"(20). I love that line!

Here is F. B. Meyers understanding of the process:

In every age God has had his quiet ones. Retired, from its noise and strife,
withdrawn from its ambitions and jealousies, unshaken by its alarms; because
they had entered into the secret of a life hidden in God. We must have an
outlet for the energies of our nature. If we are unfamiliar with the hidden
depths of eternal life, we shall necessarily live a busy, fussy, frothy,
ambitious, eager life, in created with men and things. But the man who is
intent on the eternal, can be quiet in the temporal.

The man whose house is shallow, but one room in depth, cannot help living on
the street. But directly we begin to dwell deep—deep in God, deep in the
watch for the Master's advent, deep in considering the mysteries of the
kingdom—we become quiet. We fill our little space; we get our daily broad
and and content; we enjoy natural and simple pleasures; we do not strive,
nor cry, nor cause our voice to be heard in the street; we pass through the
world, with noiseless tread, dropping a blessing on all we meet; but, we are
no sooner recognized than we are gone.

Get quiet, beloved soul; tell out thy sorrow and complaint to God. Let not
the greatest business or pressure divert thee from God. When men rag about
thee, go and tell Jesus. When storms and high, hide thee in his secret
place. When others compete for fame and applause, and their passion might
infect thee, got into thy closet, and shut thy door, and quiet thyself as a
weaned babe. For if thy voice is quiet to man, let it never cease to speak
loudly and mightily for man in the ear of God.


Putting Us Right “An’ noo, for a’ oor wrang-duins (wrong-doings) an’ ill-min’ins (misjudgments), for a’ oor sins and tre...