Gas prices started falling, and I was happy about it. So were most people around me. We’d have to spend less to travel and go about our daily business. We’d all have more expendable income, whether for ourselves or the community. The lower gas prices would have ripple effects that could only be good.
I then saw a couple of my friends from the coastline who posted about the ill effects of those gas prices. Their friends and families were losing their jobs. There were ripple effects throughout the community, but they weren’t good.
My perspective changed. I could pay an extra couple dimes per gallon in order to help another. I could quit assuming my good deal was a good deal for everyone.
I hope not to purposefully take a selfish perspective. Sometimes, I simply need someone to share another perspective to pull back the curtain on my selfishness.
We all do.
Let’s consider others’ perspectives. We may not agree with everyone, but we can learn, grow, and replace our self-centeredness with humility and compassion.
We can have sharp disagreements without sharp words.
I promise you it is possible.
Our preferences, convictions, and “rights” get in the way. We think we have the right to argue for truth with any approach we want. (Reality check: Ephesians 4:15) But a righteous purpose does not justify unrighteous means. We think we have the obligation to stand up for our rights; after all, everyone else gets to voice their opinions; shouldn’t we, too? Jesus wasn’t all that into rights. In fact, there aren’t a lot of rights that come along with being His follower. Sure, there are some really great eternal perks, and we definitely get support, courage, guidance, counsel, and strength in this life, too, but rights?
Confront with respect.
Disagree with respect.
Be willing to listen.
Express your viewpoint with humility and love.
You can have a firm center with soft edges. Otherwise, you’re likely not going to influence people in a way that honors God.
When someone sends a mass email to many, most people blind-cc everyone, so people can’t “reply all” and inundate all the recipients or gain access to their email addresses (and make it easier to get spammed).
When someone sends a mass Facebook message to many, there’s a simple “leave conversation” option.
But when someone sends a mass text, it’s as if a mob of people hijack your phone.
I’m not saying there are not situations that call for a “group conversation” text. For instance, if you’re trying to plan something, such as a family gathering, and it’s best to see each person’s response to make sure everyone is on the same page, go for it. It saves time of trying to convey each person’s response to everyone else who needs to know the details.
However, if you’re simply conveying information, just an “fyi,” please click that little box that says “send as individual conversations.” You still just have to send it one time, but the follow up comes specifically from people who want to reassure you, ask a clarifying question, etc. If someone wants to share their story that relates to your text or catch you up on their life, share the latest piece of gossip, or get into a debate, everyone else doesn’t have to be a part of the conversation.
When you receive a group conversation, there’s nothing you can do to get out of it. Even if you delete the conversation, as soon as another person responds, your phone lights up or vibrates. It’s like sitting in a waiting room and the people on either side of you carry on a conversation around or through you as if you’re not there. They could just as easily move to two empty seats, or ask you to switch places so you can have a little privacy. It’s like someone using a speaker phone so that you loudly hear all the details even though you’re not actually part of the conversation…when it would be just as easy for the person to step away to a less crowded area to chat. It’s like a chat screen constantly fills your computer screen like an annoying pop-up despite you signing up for anything.
All I’m asking is that people consider and respect others around them, whether they’re physically in the same place or simply sharing cyber/cellular space. The nice thing about technology today is the ability to reach out to people with abbreviated messages in a quick timeframe. But we need to consider not just our perspective of sending but also the perspective of others receiving what we send.
Let’s reach out and hand something to someone instead of inundating them with an unsuspecting game of dodgeball.
The fear of God can be a confusing thing. God repeatedly tells us not to be afraid, yet He also says we are to fear Him. Without getting into Hebrew and Greek, which I only know enough to quickly get myself into deep waters, we sometimes make it simple for ourselves by stating fear of God is the same as respect for God. But that’s not truly accurate. Fear (of God) must involve respect, but the two are not interchangeable.
Fear of God is recognizing who He is and who we are in relation to Him. He is a good God who loves and forgives us. He is compassionate, merciful, and loving. He is also just, righteous, jealous, and angry. None of those things are in conflict of one another. None of them can be separated from one another. God has all of those characteristics. We can’t take what we like most about God and make Him into someone we want Him to be. He is sovereign. We can’t compare our own experiences and assumptions of His qualities and project them as truth of who He is.
We are created by Him. He is our authority. We may avoid Him, refuse Him, fear Him, respect Him, or love Him, but our reaction to God doesn’t change Him.
So how can we fear Him in a way that honors Him?
Being scared of God and fearing Him are different. One has something to hide. The other has nothing to hide.
Being scared of God makes us run away. Fearing Him acknowledges who He is and places us in a humble relationship with Him. It exposes us to be able to know Him and receive from Him all He wants to pour into us.
When we walk in His ways, we fear Him. When we fear Him, we walk in His ways.
Fear serves the same purpose as bumper pads in a bowling alley, keeping us out of the gutter.
Keep the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him. (Deuteronomy 8:6)
Good thing we had an experienced, confident driver.
As we rode through the mountains, we turned sharp corners on narrow roads. We were in a van, and when we met another vehicle our size, there was little room for error. Usually, there was a sharp drop off on at least one side of the road. Often times, a house had been built on the slope, positioned so that if a vehicle careened off the road, it would land on, or in, the house. But our driver was no stranger to the winding roads.
When the road seemed to disappear into nowhere because it tightly wrapped the turn in the mountain, he honked the horn as we approached. He didn’t slow down and wait for a response. He must have known the timing he needed to listen for a reply horn and slow down enough to avoid a disastrous head-on collision. He wasn’t careless. To the contrary, he took great care. He drove faster and closer to the edge than any of us on the van would have, but that was because he had driven the roads many times and was much more comfortable. Even though the blind spots could have posed danger, his familiarity with them and the way he approached them gave us confidence in him.
We approach blind spots on a daily basis. How we deal with them tells much about our experience, trust, and confidence. Just because we can’t see what is around the corner doesn’t mean we should assume everything will be okay. Nor does it mean we have to be paralyzed by fear, so hesitant to proceed that we end up wreaking more havoc than we feared. Focusing on the blind spot too much or too little can be disastrous. Accepting it as something we have to deal with along the journey keeps it in perspective. When we focus on it, the blind spot becomes our temporary destination. Instead, it’s something we need to acknowledge, treat with respect, and proceed through.
That doesn’t mean we barrel into the future with no regard for what can happen. It doesn’t mean we’re never going to have a close call, hit something head-on, or run off the road. But it means we do what we can to trust God for the warnings we might need. We honk our horn and remind ourselves and God that our journey is His journey, that He knows a lot more about the road map than we do, that we commit to Him, including His prompts for us to take caution or proceed.
What blind spots might be in your path today? How will you approach them? You might as well trust God, the only one who isn’t blind to anything.
Unity is being in agreement or becoming one. Harmony is living at peace with others. The two seem very similar, and sometimes, they are. Other times, they differ. They’re like a seesaw, where one sometimes becomes heavier than the other, but they’re connected, united through that one crossbar that holds them together.
What do you think of when you hear the words unity and harmony in the same context as Israel? Most likely, you don’t see much connection, but there is. There are many people living in harmony with each other. Sometimes, they’re united and sometimes they’re not. Some people living in harmony with each other are doing so, most likely, because they’re very similar to one another. But that’s not always the case. There are also many people living in harmony who are definitely not united. They’re not similar to each other. If they met each other on a battle field, they would face each other from different sides, but in daily life, they don’t face each other. They work and live alongside each other. They help each other.
We often draw a line between what we see as opposing groups of people. Does the opposition exist? Absolutely. Does it exist among every person in those groups? Absolutely not.
It’s not just about Israel. I’m sure you can think of several lines of opposition right around you. Or, watch the news, and you’ll recognize even more. (On second thought, don’t watch the news. You’ll likely just end up firming up the lines of opposition you already believe, perpetuating the allusion that unity and harmony don’t exist and aren’t possible.)
Sometimes we find unity without harmony. We agree on something, but we can’t seem to live at peace with each other because of the things we disagree on. Sometimes we have harmony without unity. Despite being different, we agree to respect each other. There are times we have neither unity or harmony and, rarely, we have both at the same time.
Back and forth, up and down, the seesaw goes.
Sadly, what often happens is…we reach for the ground and try to keep our end of the seesaw down, making others squirm in discomfort as they try to use their leverage to reach the ground and make us squirm instead. We struggle for control and power. If we’re in control, we can keep others in whatever position we want, or walk away and let them fall to the ground. Then blame it on them for not being prepared.
That’s not unity or harmony. And it’s not respect. It’s not compassion or love. It’s not mercy, forgiveness, or grace.
But that makes sense, doesn’t it? All those things are of and from God, and when we try to take control, we’re not doing things His way. Whether or not we think we’re in control, we’re not.
If we check God’s perspective, we will realize He doesn’t expect us to always live in unity or harmony in this world. Should we strive for it? Absolutely. It honors Him when we do. But peace doesn’t come without struggle. Unity doesn’t come without acknowledging our differences and, therefore, the need for unity. Harmony doesn’t come from ignoring issues.
Look around. Take an inventory of your assumptions and prejudices. Work through them. Get to know people. Will it make you vulnerable? Probably. Will you get hurt? Perhaps. But as you reach out in God’s leading and timing, you’ll set aside your need to be right, to be in control, and in the process, you’ll hurt less people, including yourself. Let’s face it: Hurt isn’t always physical. What kind of damage are you doing to others and yourself?
Unity and harmony are difficult, but they’re worth the sacrifice, humility, and effort.
Despite the images of the white stones of present day Israel, much of biblical Israel would have been darker stone, lava stone. It was (and still is) used for many things, because it is porous but not absorbent. It allows good aeration but don’t easily absorb water, food particles, and tastes and scents.
That’s confusing to me. Porous but not absorbent?
It’s like living in the world but not being of the world. Being open but not easily influenced and swayed. Being able to show compassion in the trenches without getting stuck.
Sometimes, living in the world but not being of the world is confusing. I’m not sure of the line of my motivation for serving. I don’t know how much others are influencing me, even in negative ways, more than I’m influencing them, hopefully, in positive ways. I don’t know how much I should share, give, or sacrifice.
Other times, it makes sense. I know where the line is, and I respect it. But if I’m honest, I often think I know where the line is more because of where I want it to be or expect it to be than where it actually is. I base the line on my experiences or my preferences. Instead, I need to ask God to take me to the line.
The line changes. Well, my experience of it changes. I’m not saying God ever changes. He doesn’t. But He changes me. He leads me to different experiences that I can handle at the time but that also change and prepare me for the future. So, the next time, the boundary might seem a bit different, because I’m in a different place. Living in the world requires more of me, because I give more of myself for God to use in the world. Not being of the world requires more of me, too. I don’t become more isolated. I become more sensitive to the needs, dangers, and opportunities around me.
I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctifythem by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:14-19)