Let There be Peace

Galatians 5: 26

Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

This verse captured my attention last week. It’s one of those which I think we read and nod our heads in immediate agreement. We shouldn’t boast or brag, okay. Envy is just wrong, okay but what of challenging one another. What does that mean?

I was intrigued by this verse when I read it from the Amplified version, “Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.” So, I think we pretty well understand that we are not supposed to present ourselves in conceit and arrogance. Envy, yeah we’ve got a handle on that too. However, would you have said that God has spoken about competitiveness, provocation, and irritation? It is pretty easy to cast your thoughts abroad and remember instances when each of those has created a less than Godly environment. I am very competitive by nature but I really don’t like being around people whose competitiveness takes the fun out of life. You know what I am talking about. That does not foster a sense of love and peace.

And of course you may know someone who loves to provoke people. I knew one of those. He especially liked to say provocative and hateful things to women. I always thought he must be a bit of a coward to try to pick on and harass people who were not likely to make him pay for his comments in any meaningful way. Had he tried that with men, eventually he would have encountered one who was not feeling particularly righteous that day and would have decked him.

What about the irritants? Are there people who are just a thorn in the flesh of those around them? They are like a burr under the saddle, aren’t they? You just want to get rid of them.

All three of these are symptoms of brokenness. Emotionally healthy people do not have to resort to any of the characteristics described in today passage. We can certainly pray for these folks and you know they need prayer. Sometimes, you may need to gently confront them. Their damage should not become your burden but you may need to let them know where your boundaries lie and what is appropriate and what is not. God did not call you to fix them, he didn’t even call you to hang out with them, which is my third thought. You might consider significantly limiting your association with them. If you are following peace, as we know we should, then you are not going to find it in their presence. These behaviors are every bit as sinful as adultery. Importantly, God has not called you into that environment. Hear this – He has called us out of it.

God is the healer. If we are the ones who are conceited, arrogant, envious, self-absorbed, irritating, competitive, and provoke others into anger or other ungodly thoughts and words, then we must turn to God and receive healing. Only a broken, damaged person does these things, but we serve a mighty God who will deliver us.
You were destined to live in peace and harmony. You are meant to live in loving and caring environments and you deserve that. It is part of what Jesus died to give you so demand it for yourself. Except nothing less!!!

Modeling Jesus

Philippians 2: 3-5

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.

There is an entire sermon in just the first phrase of this passage but I want to focus on the theme contained in the remainder of today’s selection. It is a very important topic and one that does not get a lot of coverage. That is probably because none of us really want to hear it much less teach it or have to submit to it. 

The first phrase calls us to never once act out of selfishness nor to ever act on conceit. The rest of the passage takes us just a bit further. It expands on the theme. Not only are we not to be selfish, we are actually supposed to put other people ahead of ourselves; their interests ahead of our own interests. How many people accomplish this directive? Importantly, how many are even trying? Are we, as the church, even aware that we are supposed to be putting other people, their interests, their needs ahead of ourselves? 

Most of us say that we want to be like Christ. We pray to the Father and to Jesus to help us to become more like him every day. Our churches teach us that we should follow his example and his path and yet how many are clearly telling us that we need to put others before ourselves in all things? And yet verse five says explicitly that this is the attitude which has always been in Christ Jesus.

First we have to learn that this scriptural imperative exists. As of today, at least you are on notice as to its biblical existence. Now we can do something about it. Most of us will need plenty of help in accomplishing this edict. Fortunately there is a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit who can and will help us. Begin by humbling yourself before the throne. Repent before the Almighty for those times when you have acted out of self-interest. Humility and repentance are cleansing forces. They clear your heart and mind making it easier for you to connect with the Father on a deep level. Then you can ask him for help with an open heart.

I know some people don’t like repenting or asking for forgiveness. We don’t like admitting that we were wrong or have behaved in a way that is not pleasing to the Father. We can make a million excuses why it is not necessary to repent but they are all just wasted breath. Repentance is good for the soul. We are not directed to repent and ask forgiveness for God’s sake. It is for our sake. In order to walk in this kind of obedience, you will need a lot of God’s help. When you need a lot of help from God, you need to connect with him at a very deep level. The way to do that is to start with a clean slate.

I encourage you, even as I admonish myself, that you make this a goal of your heart that you walk in the same attitude as Christ. That we all learn to put other’s needs and interests before our own. I heartily implore you to embrace this way of life. I pray that we would all learn to move ourselves out of our minds and let the ego have a vacation. Dedicate this day to putting yourself out of your mind and out of your motivation. Mark others as more important than yourself and let the Holy Spirit move through you to bless you and others.