Practical Proverbial, from Philippians, 14 January 2020

Do everything without grumbling or arguing. Philippians 2:14. (EHV).

Here’s a tough one for me.   I like to debate and I like to argue.   I don’t like to be quarrelsome, and I don’t like not getting along with people.   But I like to talk in-depth about things like faith and politics and topics that are generally off-limits, especially if it’s with people with whom I disagree.   I’m a big believer in people talking it out and agreeing to disagree when, well, we don’t agree.   In fact, I respect people who stand up for what they believe in especially if it’s something with which I disagree.   Mind you, I’m not defending people who believe in the indefensible (things like murder, avarice, violence, etc).   I simply respect people who stand up for what they believe even if it’s something I don’t believe in.

Some people will lend you money, then grumble about doing it.   Some folks will offer to help you move your furniture, then complain about having to do it.   Some good people will itch for a fight even when they know that no good can come out of it.  Got skin?   Got sin.   My arguing, the money-grubber’s grumbling, the Indian-giver who says they’ll do one thing and then take it back later:  all sins.   All contrary to what Paul advises us to do in one way or another.

Instead, Paul reminds us to do EVERYTHING without those petty sins like arguing, grumbling or the like.   Not just work, not just Thanksgiving dinner with crazy Uncle Bernie (or Joe), not just getting along with your argumentative Facebook friend:   EVERYTHING.   Making dinner, cleaning the house, walking the dog, talking on the telephone, talking online, writing blogs, chatting in the narthex on Sunday morning:   EVERYTHING.   Do it all without arguing or complaining.

Yep:   that’s a tough one.   Here’s an idea:   let’s be tougher.   Let’s take up Christ’s light yoke and burden and do everything we do with His attitude.   Serving and serving thankfully; going the extra mile; forgiving when others fail us; giving up on revenge and gossip and getting even:   let’s work to infuse our words and actions today with the fruits of Galatians 5 and the words of Christ’s Gospels.

For me, that starts with watching what I say, online and in person.   I have a friend (with whom I almost always politically disagree) who seems to have an insatiable need to be right or have the last word.   Today I’ll let him.   Instead of being Eeyore the pessimist (someone my wife accuses me of being) I’ll keep quiet.   Rather than focusing on the negatives, I’ll say prayers of thanks for them and good things around them.   It’s about giving praise instead of criticism and thanks instead of something else.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 10:10, Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Peter 4:9, Philippians 2:15

Lord Jesus, thank You for yet another opportunity to retrain my brain to better serve You.   Strengthen me to not grumble or complain or argue.

Daily Proverbial, from 1 John, 25 March 2013.

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.  1 John 3, verse 14.

The wages of sin are death; the Apostle Paul said it.   He said it having known the faith that the Apostle John knew (and maybe even having personally met John in the flesh).  If you do some word substitution with Paul’s verse, it takes on a whole new meaning.   The wages of sin are death…the wages of following Jesus are life.  If we live for sin, we reject Jesus.   If we reject Jesus, we reject Him and His love, which is the essence of life.   If we live for sin, we reject life.

So if we live for following Jesus, we are paid in life; abundant life of contentment, peace, knowledge, joy, happiness, and fun.  Even as the terrible times still happen when we follow Him, we are freed of emotional, even physical, slavery to those terrors and we become able to deal with them realistically, through the lens of Him to teaches that tough times never last but tough believers do.

How do we follow Jesus?   It starts with just love.   Just love people, learning to love the way Jesus loved.  Love is selfless.   Love says “you first.”  Love is empathy and caring, patience and wisdom.   Love acts like Jesus does.  When we love, we follow Him and we’re open for Him to teach us even more. 

When we love, the world will hate us for it because love is crazy and illogical.  Love goes against the grain of a world that is accustomed to living through logical sin.   In the world, unreasonable ignorance is equated with knowing love.  In the world, the life that is a fruit of love is replaced with the death that comes because of hatred. 

And it happens because I put me first, because I abandon selfless love to get my selfish desires.  It happens even though we know there’s a better way.

I was an adulterer, and sometimes that weighs on me.   They were good women who cared, even loved, despite denying our mutual selfishness and impossible expectations.  I’ve cursed, I’ve stolen, I’ve hated; I’ve done worse than these.   The logical outcome for all of my sins is permanent separation from God:  death.  2000 years ago, God proved He saw things differently.  He put Himself up to die as the price He was willing to pay to save me from myself.   When He did that, though I wasn’t even born yet, God brought me over from death to life.  He did it for you as well.  And for Joe Stalin, Joe Biden, Joltin Joe DiMaggio, and Joe the Plumber as well.   God did it for all of us average Joe’s so that we might follow Jesus and live.

Lord, thank you for bringing me from death to life, from hatred to love, and from hopeless ignorance to knowing hope.