Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just, Merciful, and Humble

I think I have a mental problem or maybe it's a learning disorder. For some reason, I can be told something a thousand times and yet I still cannot grasp the concept. I may be one fry short of a Happy Meal, if you know what I mean (okay two fries). I wonder if God feels like my son's first grade teacher - saying the same thing over and over patiently until His students finally get it (By the way, have I mentioned that my son's teacher has four kids of her own and is still a wonderfully patient woman in the classroom?).

Anyway, here is what I mean: I know that my salvation is a gift that I can do or have done nothing to deserve (actually quite the opposite - I deserve the hottest hell ya'll !). But, there are times when I find myself doing things in order to please God. For example, there are times when I take meals to someone who is sick not because I want to be a blessing, but because I feel that it will somehow make God proud of me (stupid, I know). Most of the time I love taking meals or blessing someone, but there are those times when I do it out of a sense of obligation (to God, not to that person). Or, there are times when I take on responsibilities at church so that God will know for sure that I am serious about serving Him (um, God knows my heart - why do I need to prove anything to Him? duh....I don't). I can think of a million times when I have done 'acts of service/kindness' not out of love, but out of duty. There are times when I am a Pharisee in the body of a true believer.

Now, don't get me wrong, I believe we are supposed to do what God has asked us to do (ten commandments, love one another, etc, etc, etc.). Where I believe we (ummmm, well, I ) go wrong is when we (I) do things to gain the approval of God. Isaiah 64:6 says "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away". You see, where I go wrong in my thinking is that I can DO something to make God pleased with me or love me more. I even find myself being critical of those who don't serve where they are gifted or those who aren't at church every time the doors are open. I am not just a Pharisee - I am dadgum, outright judgemental at times (Note to those not from the south: "Dadgum" is a southern word meaning 'extremely').

The first thing that is wrong with that thinking is that God already loves me so much He sent His only Son to die for me --- there is No greater love than that. The second thing that is wrong with that thinking is that the whole purpose of and premise behind grace is that I can do nothing to earn God's love. So, all my rushing around pleasing God is really just rushing around pursuing something I already possess. Does that make sense? I think I might need some counseling :-) (or maybe just a swift kick in the behind).

So, if my service doesn't make God pleased with me, then what in the world does He want from me? Micah 6:8 says "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" What God requires is that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. What does all that mean, you ask? (Just pretend that you asked) Well, I wondered that as well, so I used the handy-dandy Webster's online to get the proper definitions of those words (I hate that Wiki - thing - too much information if you ask me).

Justice - the quality of being just, impartial, or fair

Mercy - a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion /compassionate treatment of those in distress /a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion

Humble - not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive/ranking low in a hierarchy or scale

What God asks of us is to be fair, love the mercy He has shown us / love to be merciful to others, and forget our pride and arrogance. I believe the Bible speaks in simple terms, because God was writing it to His children -- we wouldn't give our children directions that are over their heads. He also knew that we would be able to turn the simplest concepts into something difficult to understand (I believe most of us are really Pharisees at heart - fight it, girls!). Think about it, children know about being fair - "Mommy, he took my toy- that is not fair"! Children know about mercy ---

Child: Mommy, I broke your favorite flower pot.

Mommy: Honey, that's okay - you didn't mean to. I forgive you.

Children know more about being humble than any other people in the world. After all, who is less proud and arrogant than a child? Children ask for help often and they cry unashamedly when they are hurt. Children recognize their limitations and depend on others for things they cannot accomplish themselves. When was the last time you saw an adult do those things? God made it simple for us to understand, yet we try to make walking with the Lord so difficult. His love is not conditional. He doesn't love us because of something we have done, He loves us in spite of what we've done. And that, my friends, is yet another thing for which we should be forever grateful.


Emily said...

Hey! So true!! I complicate things so much, I love it when God simplifies it again. I hate that Pharisee in me so much! Thanks so much for this post.

Alana said...

Well said, Bethanne. Very well said. I have the problem of trying to please people (even over God sometimes). Blech.

Anonymous said...

May we all strive to be childlike in our relationship with Christ.

Fran said...

Childlike faith and knowledge is really a good thing...its a GOd thing. As grownups we tend to mess things up because we make it way harder than it should be. Simple is good.

Hope your week is goind well. Would you come work on the Christmas bomb that has gone off in our house and I can't clean it up??!!


Renee said...

Mmmm....very well put.

Good thoughts. And I'm in the same boat as you...I'm forever examining my motives, because most of the time, I find I do things for the wrong reasons. What a great reminder to remember what's important.


Kelly S. said...

WOW what a wonderful post! You touched on two things God has been teaching me.
1-conviction on judmental thoughts
Romans 2:1-3
2-teachable spirit &humility
Matthew 11.25--At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

I so appreciate your "Pharisee" confession, I call it my "church lady mentality".

I can be so dadgum self righteous!!! Praise God for His Grace.