I wrote a devotion a couple of years ago, and I thought it might be fitting to put it in the newsletter today, so here it is:
Back when my kids were little, like elementary school age, one of my best friends and I put on the fall and spring Presentation Nights for our homeschool co-op. There were fifty families in it and homeschoolers usually have more than the average amount of kids (ha!).
It served as a Christmas program, speech credit requirement, recital for instruments and voice, graduation (in the spring), end-of-school party, and pretty much anything else that public schools might do in their auditorium, we did at Presentation Night.
My friend has the opposite personality from me – she’s outgoing and vivacious, loves to socialize and talks non-stop. I’m pretty much the boring rock behind her. It has always fascinated me how opposite personalities complement each other – when they can get along. Ha.
She and I have never fought. We’ve never even argued. And we’ve put on some pretty big events. Anyone who’s ever planned anything like that knows exactly what I’m talking about – we had to pick a date and announce it, do sign up sheets for participation and refreshments, secure a location (since we were a homeschool group, we didn’t have an auditorium at our disposal, but usually someone’s church would let us use their facility), make sure everything everyone needed for their performances was there, if not, figure out how to get it, deal with cancellations and additions, programs, line-ups, emcee volunteers (and if there were no volunteers, ha, we got to do it – or, most of the time, we made our kids do it, lol) and the other tons of details that pop up during these things. We’d get there early to set up and of course we got to clean the sanctuary, foyer, fellowship hall and bathrooms after it was over.
A few years we put on musicals in addition to the Presentation Nights. She’d direct and I’d help with lines and play the piano. We made costumes and props together and somehow got all the pieces lined up in order.
Neither one of us were in it for the applause, we were never trying to one-up the other and we discussed everything, even though both of us had our areas. I was sitting here trying to think of a single time during any of the couple dozen performances we coordinated that we had some kind of major problem, and I can’t think of a thing, even though my oldest didn’t get along with her oldest. We just laughed about that because they were too much alike, which is why they didn’t get along.
I just loved standing to the side on the evenings of Presentation Night, seeing all the proud parents, the beaming (and nervous, lol) kids, the happy smiles, the excited siblings, the secret preparations and the laughter and fellowship when it was over and they all stood around, holding their plates of yummy food and laughing and talking about how things went.
What a feeling of satisfaction as all of your hard work came to fruition in the smiles of the people that you did it for.
People have often commented on how well my friend and I worked together and I always really believed it was because beneath our extremely different personalities was the servant’s mentality that we shared, and because we saw the good in each other and were always considerate – I wouldn’t have dreamed of lifting a finger without checking with her first, and if it didn’t work for her, it didn’t work for me. End of discussion.
I guess she must have felt the same, because I always felt like she valued my opinion and my presence. Even though I have a tendency to hang back, she never walked on without me. I’m not even sure how she knew I needed it, or maybe it’s just her personality, but she pulled me with her, which I always appreciated, since it made me feel like she wanted me. The idea that one of us would do something without the other’s input never crossed our minds.
I was thinking about that because this week I read in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas had such sharp contention between them that they split up and chose other partners to continue the mission work.
Now, some of that might have been God’s plan. After all, two teams of Godly men can accomplish more and go more places than one team, right?
But this has always been kind of a puzzle to me because, come on, Paul wrote most of the books in the New Testament. He is arguably one of the most saintly men to ever live. How can someone not get along with him???
I don’t have any scriptural answers to that. To me it just shows that even the most saintly among us sometimes have disagreements and deal with human flaws and faults.
No one is perfect. Not your spouse (lol), not your siblings, your friends, parents, and not even your pastor. We’re all humans with a sin nature. We’re all in need of God’s grace, and we’re all called upon to extend that same grace to others.
I love that in Acts, despite the “sharp” contention, neither Paul nor Barnabas say anything bad about the other. (Can I do that? Can I disagree with someone, even have “sharp” contention and never say a bad word about them? Boy, that’s my goal for someday!) They just agreed to disagree, and they moved on.
The Bible never really tells us that Paul and Barnabas reconciled, but Paul does talk about Barnabas and also about Mark (over whom they had their contention), so I think it’s safe to say they put the past behind them and walked forward with their eyes on Jesus.
I think the best way to get along with some people is to just keep our eyes on Jesus.
We should want what we do – EVERYTHING we do – to bring honor and glory to Him, as much as humanly possible.
Sometimes that means giving grace and overlooking someone else’s sin, their inconsideration or their outright lies.
Sometimes that means stepping back and allowing the spotlight to shine on someone else, even if we feel we deserve it. It might mean making a lot of preparations and doing an insane amount of work so that other people can shine. Being a servant, forgetting about ourselves so God can work though us.
Sometimes that means we need to remember we’re not perfect ourselves and we need to give as much (or more) grace than we receive. Maybe that means ignoring their political statements or their insults about your religion or about the crazy things your family does. I know if I keep my eyes on Jesus, God will handle things much better than I ever could.
After all, in light of eternity, what do insults matter? Does it matter if I don’t get my way? When I step into Heaven, will I really be glad I “won” an argument? That I came out “on top”? That everyone realized I was right?
I know, it’s hard to give up our way, hard to allow people to think we’re wrong (when we’re really not!), hard to lift our fingers up and give up our “rights” to tell everyone else about how awful someone is. Hard to overlook someone’s faults or really irritating behavior and really hard to pass by a chance to huddle with other people and complain about them.
But God wants us to Do all things without murmurings and disputings. That means that not only are we supposed to get along, we’re supposed to not engage in malicious gossip about people who are impossible. We’re supposed to “esteem” others better than ourselves.
I guess I find that mostly easy to do with people who are nice to me, but, just being real here, I struggle, and struggle hard, to do that with people who are unkind. I don’t want to lift up someone who isn’t nice to me. I don’t want to help them, encourage them, or give them anything but my back.
But as Christians, God calls us to a higher standard than what our natural human inclinations would have us do. Not just keeping our mouths shut, but actually being kind to people who are unkind to us seems like it might be pretty close to impossible, but through the power of the Holy Spirit which resides in us as Christians, we can do anything – nothing is impossible – including being kind.
I’m not perfect at this – FAR from it! My knee-jerk reaction is always to defend myself and to walk away, but God doesn’t want us to fight and he doesn’t even want us to walk away – he wants us to choose to show love, engage in kindness, give ourselves in ways that people don’t expect.
The whole time I’ve been writing this, I’ve been thinking of Christ and the evening He was arrested, his trial, his crucifixion.
He asked his friends to join him in prayer, but they went to sleep instead.
He was accused, but he didn’t defend himself.
He allowed everyone in the room to think he was wrong, because arguing would not have brought glory to God.
His “friends” deserted him, even denied him, but he loved them anyway, and went on to do the kindest thing anyone has ever done for another living soul. He did that for his enemies as well, even the people who were putting him to death.
If Jesus can be kind – can die – for the very people who are killing him (He was kind – he died – for people who profane his name, who kill babies, who worship Satan, who spit in His face and do their best to turn the world against him, who use Him to further their own causes, who lie and cheat and steal and sin over and over without remorse and without trying to change) it’s nothing for him to expect me to be nice to someone who might have simply said something unkind, maybe even unintentionally.
As Christians, we’re called to be like Jesus. Folks, that’s radically different than what we have come to expect, even from Christians.
We have such low standards for ourselves. Most of the time we don’t even consider trying to make ourselves do something a little uncomfortable, like doing something nice for someone who has been even a little unkind to us, let alone to be kind to someone who has deliberately maligned us.
Can we keep our mouths shut? Can we choose to show love and kindness rather than defend ourselves? Can we take meanness and return it with kindnesses? Can we show love to people everyone else considers unlovable and can we have “sharp contention” and never say an unkind word, but walk on together in love with our eyes on Jesus?
This is definitely an area where God has been challenging me, and, I admit, I’ve stumbled and fallen a lot in the past few months. I want to do better. I want to be the kind of person who loves and is kind to everyone and I don’t even notice what they do or don’t do or are or aren’t to me. I want to throw love and kindness out like confetti – like Jesus – with my eyes on my Savior and not on what other people are doing.
As Christians, every day, our goal is to be like Jesus. How are we doing?
Alright, have a beautiful and blessed Resurrection Sunday! After all, the empty tomb is the whole point.
Hugs and blessings, my friends!