~By: Sylvia Reynolds-Blakely~
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16 NIV
As I write this, the nation that I live in and love has seemingly turned in on itself. Tectonic plates have shifted again. Our fundamentals have been brought into sharper view, and none of us like the America we see right now. We go through these cycles, it seems, where instead of looking into our own hearts to search out the root of the discord, we hazily attempt to gaze into the heart of our brother or sister and invariably see things that don’t truly exist. In this time of pandemic and social unrest it just seems easier, less obtrusive maybe, to try to “fix” what ails another instead of looking in the mirror and examining our own heart. Start with the man in the mirror? No way. I’m fine. If THOSE people over there could just change, then the world would be fine. As a Christian, I am not exempt from trying to find the easy way out of a tough heart predicament. To do the work of true heart change is, let's face it, more difficult than most want to attempt. That work involves admitting we are flawed, that we do not have the capacity to change our own hearts, and that any previous judgments and alliances we’ve stubbornly held onto have been questionable at best. In short, we have a Lordship issue.
I was blessed recently to complete two Bible-based studies that felt as if they rearranged the molecules in my heart and soul. So complete was this work of healing and restoration, that I literally felt like a new creation in Christ at the end. I hadn’t recognized that there were (and certainly still are) elements of myself that don’t align with Christ that have to be violently removed by complete and total surrender to His will. Simply gently stirring the pot, so to speak, to recombine the ingredients of my mind, body, and spirit was not enough. Each aspect of who I am had to be disassembled, retooled, polished, and reassembled like rebuilding a car engine. I could not, with any sincerity or effectiveness, do the work He has assigned me to without that rebuild. And, I could not have completed my heart work if it had not been for the gracious and loving hand of Holy Spirit gently guiding me closer to the me He’s always intended.
One fundamental and hurtful truth I received from Holy Spirit during my retooling was that I did not sufficiently value the unique expression of God each of us represents. Maya Angelou once said, “Only equals can become friends.” Because of labeling, prejudging, and therefore dismissing some of His people, I unwittingly have missed out on truly knowing my brothers and sisters in Christ and those not in the faith. This disregard extended to the unborn, those on death row, and the severely mentally ill – basically those Christ termed the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). If we are all made in the image of God (and all means ALL), how can one of us be greater or least? How can I truly know you if we start out on unequal footing? That is the hidden gem behind what Christ was saying: It’s not who you are in our perfect God’s eyes, but how you've been treated by the other imperfect created humans that hurts the body of Christ. If money, status, skin color, position, etc. do not truly make you “less than” anyone else, how could those same attributes make you MORE THAN anyone else? They can’t in the eyes of God, but as each other's keepers, we have done God a grievous injustice by treating each other as if outward attributes define who we are in the Kingdom; as if we are not all equal in the sight of God.
Jesus blessed the poor in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3 because of the shameful way they were treated by those who have more. Jesus blessed those that mourn because they were so often ignored by those experiencing temporary good times (vs. 4). God blessed the children because they were so often left unprotected by self interested adults who were Christ followers (Luke 18:15-16). God blessed the prisoners because they were typically neglected by those who saw themselves as entitled to freedom (Psalm 146:7). God provided the means to have everyone experience equality, but through disobedience, His creation ritually fosters inequality (1 John 3:17). Indeed, there seems to be little room in our hearts for equity. It was the equitable treatment of all life in all its forms, stations, and presentations that I was missing; and I dare say, I am not alone in this. How else could I or any of us hate our fellow creations if we have the full love of God the Creator in our hearts? (1 John 3:10; 1 John 4:21)
We could not and cannot, and to believe otherwise is to lie to ourselves. 1 John 4:20 (NIV) states: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
And so, the turmoil ends with our willingness to examine our own nature and ask Holy Spirit to set aside all characteristics that are not like Jesus. We can value God’s creations and love each other as equals. We can avoid internalizing the negative dialogue and fully receive the Lord’s blessings over our lives. We can choose to endure, as a beloved nation, God’s kind purification process, painful and messy as it is, until we fully repent and move toward holiness. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray, Amen and Amen.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12 NIV