“This is what I tell you to do: Love each other just as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than to give his life for his friends."
How many times have you heard that verse quoted? Hundreds of times? All my life people have been saying that, yet it doesn't seem possible to live it out. Well, maybe it's possible, but I believe extremely rare.
Most of the time, we are very selfish. At least I know I am. I want to get what I want out of a relationship, and I go into it with the wrong attitude. Too often my first thought is me, me, ME. I am extremely selfish. I don't always choose to be the person they need, but often times I am who I want to be. It's about my feelings and my happiness. God hasn't asked me to literally lay down my life for a friend, but He often asks me to lay down my own selfish pride.
God has been asking me this question, "Are you doing what's best for them, or are you selfishly trying to hold onto them? Do you not challenge others because you worry it will work out badly for their sake, or is it your own sake? I told you before; I am constantly turning from God to seek the approval of man.
If we can't even lay down our selfish pride, how could we give them our life?
"Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. " Proverbs 27:6
Another verse that people love to quote, but do they really want to live it out? Who really wants to be corrected? And who really wants to do the correcting? We just want to hear those positive things. "You're doing a great job! Keep it up! I'll be behind you no matter what!"
In truth, don't you see things in others that you would change if you only could be given the chance? Maybe you see them struggling with something and you know a better way of accomplishing the goal? So many times we are too close to the situation and can't see what's right in front of us. It takes an outsider to point out the mistake.
Take for example a blog post. You write it out, and read it again and again to make sure it doesn't contain spelling or grammar errors. You put your heart into it. Then someone else comes along, and can point out one or two things you did wrong. Why didn't you see it yourself? You were too close. You knew what the goal was, and what you wanted it to say, so you read it back exactly how it was supposed to be. You had the inside track. However, you were still wrong. You really did have an error. Not intentionally, of course. You just couldn't see it because you were too close. Or maybe spelling and grammar is a weakness of yours. Sometimes we need that outside person to say, "Hey, you're not making sense." It's not an insult. They are just a few feet back and can see it like it is.
In our lives, we always need an outsider. We are too close and can't see our flaws. We have the inside track, and know what the heart of the matter is; however, we can't always get from point A to point B without a little assistance.
Sometimes I think relationships would go a lot better if we saw it through a parent's eyes. You love your kids enough to help them out, no matter how upset it makes them. You know it's all for their benefit. It's not unkind, or mean. You have their best interest at heart.
Many of you know that my son, Gabriel, is an author. He loves to spend all his time writing. For hours and hours he can sit at the dining room table, with a pencil and notebook, spilling out a spectacular story. Sometimes his stories are really good, and I'm impressed. But then there are times where I can't understand what he's talking about. He has this wonderful brain, but it can be hard for him to express himself in a way that other people can understand.
This week we were working on his next story to be published on my blog entitled, "Dinosaurs in Elementary School." I think it's really good. However, he was switching too much between first and second person. The book started off in first person, "I found a research book. I checked it out." Then confusingly it switches to, "He saw this. He did this." I misunderstood him and thought when Gabriel used the pronoun "he", that he was referring to the dinosaur, not the boy. I tried to explain that he needed to have continuity throughout the story; otherwise people just won't get it.
Gabriel got so angry at me. He thought I was insulting him and didn't think his story was good enough. I tried to explain that was far from the case, but he couldn't listen anymore. His feelings were hurt. He threw the book into the trash can. I forced him to take it out.
I thought he might understand it a little better if I used some writing terms. I told him if he was a published author, he still would have an editor who had the final say. If the editor didn't approve, he would be asked to rewrite it. Even professionals have to get a second opinion. I still didn't get through to him.
Last night, I told him I would be typing up the story on my laptop whether or not it was going to be published. I forced him to work with me for the sake of practice. The more he worked, the more excited he became. He may never voice that he appreciated my opinion, but it helped his writing skills for the better. When he dictated the book, I noticed he was very careful to change the words to make sure it was written entirely in first person.
Did I enjoy the pain I caused my son? No, of course not. But would it have been helpful for me to lie to him, and say, "What a great job you're doing. Keep it up!" Definitely not. If he wants to become a world famous author, he's going to need the help and constructive criticism of others around him. Nobody is born with all the knowledge of the world. We all need each other.
Who do you love enough to get correction from? Who do you love enough to risk giving it to? Your children? Your spouse? These are usually the people we are most comfortable with. We know they love us unconditionally and we can take their advice... or give them advice. Nobody wants to hear that they are coming up short in an area. But we all need to hear it.
I want to be a selfless parent, wife, and friend. I want to love unconditionally. I don't want to hold selfishly onto them, always telling them what I think they want to hear, so I don't risk their anger.
I first must be obedient to Christ. If He asks me to do or say something, I must obey. It's His approval I strive to seek, not mans. And if He asks that I confront someone, no matter how painful on either part, I want to be willing to do it.
Sometimes this can be one of the hardest things you have to do. Life with God is not always the easiest path to take. Yesterday I read the words of Paul to the church in Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 7: 8-9 and I was greatly encouraged. "I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don't feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I'm glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss."
I wish every situation turned out the way it did for Paul, but it doesn't. Let's face it; some people really do only want to hear positive things about themselves. They don't want to hear the honest truth, and you run the risk of losing them. Does that mean we were wrong in following God's command? No. We may never see the fruit of our obedience. "But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at the way he looks on the outside or how tall he is, because I have not chosen him. For the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. A man looks at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7. Just because we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.
Not only do I want to be one who can lay down my pride for the sake of others, but I want to lay down my pride when I am wrong. Believe me this happens a lot! Unfortunately, I have very few people in my life who love me enough to tell me. It can only mean one of two things. I either have no one in my life willing to do this, or I've reacted very badly in the past and no one wants to risk my wrath. I pray its number two. I cannot change others, however I can change myself.
I try to pray a prayer daily that God would show me the error of my ways. I don't want to be stubborn and unchanging. I want to be a light in the darkness. And what kind of a light would I be if I wouldn't change. I know I am not where I need to be, but God willing I'm headed there...
"We do not preach about ourselves. We preach Christ Jesus the Lord. We are your servants because of Jesus. It was God Who said, “The light will shine in darkness.”
He is the One Who made His light shine in our hearts. This brings us the light of knowing God’s shining-greatness which is seen in Christ’s face.
We have this light from God in our human bodies. This shows that the power is from God. It is not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:5-7