I’m pretty good at loving the people who are fun to love. Easy to love. The people I want to be like. Or the people a little bit like me. I’m good to those people. I’m available to them. I extend grace to them.
But what about everybody else? What about the awkward people? The ones that haven’t seemed to learn the social graces of our time and place? And what about the people who continually need something? Or the people who exhaust you? The ones you don’t seem to understand?
I’m lost in this concern this week. I can’t escape the knowing that God calls his people to live different by loving different. By looking past everything we’ve ever been told is normal and beautiful to see God’s image in all people.
We have these filters. Social, economic, racial prejudices that keep us judging, categorizing, comparing. We don’t even tell our heart to sort people in this way. We do it without thinking. Years of reinforcement determining the way we receive people. Executing how we love.
My heart cries out in rebellion. Enough! I’m tired of living stronger in the flesh than in the spirit.
I ask myself this question often: If I love Jesus and I’m committed to following him, then why don’t I live like him? I’m genuine about my confession of Jesus as the Christ. And I get that it involves a cross in my life. And I’m willing to carry it…so why don’t I? Why do I hold tight to so much of my life and give him so little?
I’m not trying to be hard myself. I know I’m a good person who lives faithfully in the story God’s writing for me. I say yes to God a lot. I’ve walked down roads with him I never dreamed of. It’s the everyday little big things I’m talking about. Sure, I’ve given God the broad stroke of my story. The way I commit to marriage, raise my children, receive the fatherless, worship with a community, participate in the body of Christ. But what about all the little details in between? The way I react and respond in my home. The way I choose to spend my time. The people I ignore so I can be with family and friends I love.
I have surrendered my life story to the will of God, but not my day-to-day living. This is why I can’t love people the way I want to. Discipline my time. Respond in grace within my home. In the everyday moments, my flesh is more victorious than my spirit.
And if my flesh is winning more than my spirit, it’s because my flesh is strong and my spirit is weak. And if my flesh is strong and my spirit is weak, it’s because I’m feeding my flesh more than my spirit. Now I’m sounding a bit like Paul…
Because I give my flesh what it wants on a daily basis, it lives as it pleases. Selfish with resources. Comfortable with possessions. Content with status quo.
I’m not living victoriously through Jesus. I’m living defeated to my sinful nature.
Here’s the scary part: it doesn’t look sinful. Because truthfully, the desires of my flesh aren’t always sinful. In fact, they’re rather normal. I indulge in things that aren’t necessarily bad for me. I eat regularly. I watch my weight. I rendezvous with Mark in the bedroom (wink wink). I enjoy an occasional cocktail. I purchase a few new things at the beginning of each season. I spend more time with my family and friends than anyone else. I create my home to be cute and comfortable. I watch movies. I sleep long at night. I have an iced latte every. single. morning. None of this is sinful. These are things I enjoy and I find no wrong in the activities themselves.
The danger lies only in the reality that I spend more time feeding my flesh than my spirit.
I know I sound repetitive with all this fasting flesh and spirit talk. But In order to live victoriously in the spirit we must change the way we feed ourselves. We must nourish our spirit. Cultivate our soul. And taking the time to do this will mean saying no to things of the flesh. Even things that aren’t bad for us.
The more available we are to God’s spirit within us, the more our daily opportunities, choices and reactions will be responses of the spirit, rather than our flesh.
Be hospitable to God’s spirit. Welcome him to permeate your daily routine. Take five minutes to read scripture. Five minutes to write someone an encouraging note. Five minutes to affirm your children. Five minutes to acknowledge the stranger who seems to want to talk. Say yes to the friend who needs some attention. Yes to the invitation to dinner that you were hoping to avoid. Seek a quiet moment. Seek the lonely out. Seek something to love in everyone.
As we surrender more of ourselves to God, his love and grace will pour out of us.
Jesus, be the center. Of my life. Of my day. In all things, be the center.
May this song encourage worship in your home this weekend.