December 19, 2007

Becoming All Things to All Men This Christmas


I have had a most interesting week... a week of seeing God open my eyes to the NEED for humility and love of others. It all started with a prayer in my prayer journal that God would take away any pride that I have because pride is not from Him. We all know that God answers prayers. Sometimes not in the way we imagine... so I remembered as I prayed for humility and added, "Be gentle on me, please" to my prayer without speaking it aloud.

God began my week with an unplanned field trip to a public school. The opportunity was 'dropped into my lap'. My eyes were opened to the beauty of the children and God gently reminded me that those little souls and hearts are what education is all about. He let me meet some wonderful teachers and allowed me to see them in action. Learning about others who are different from us is a huge tool in breaking down hostility, promoting peace, and growing in unity and love.

Then God spoke to me through a man at my church. My preacher is sick and has been out for a while with pneumonia, so our family minister (a man who has been a giant in my life and has prayed for me when I was lost) told a story at the pulpit that brought me to tears. You see, one of my very favorite chapters in the Bible is Paul's thoughtful sermon in Athens in Acts 17. To imagine that we are "in" God and are "determined" by God and set within our generation purposefully is too great a thing for me to comprehend. I never knew that the words that Paul recited were actually from a poem that was written by a 6th century BC Greek philosopher named Epimenides. Paul truly loved the people of Athens and despite his differences with them he took the time to LEARN about them, LISTEN to them, OBSERVE them, and obviously to pray for them. Why else would he have quoted their own poets and philosophers? He gave them his heart and his time. Do we stop and give people an ear and eye contact now days? Do we take time out of our hurried lives to mentor or befriend others?

Paul himself states that the way to reach someone is to "become all things".
1 Corinthians 9:22 ~
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
He admonishes us to reach out to someone from their own understanding of the world. Don't talk down to them or above their heads. Don't point fingers at them and shame them. They wouldn't be the way they are had they not learned that behavior... and sometimes the only thing keeping them from learning a better way is the person trying to teach it (or model it). Sadly, this goes for even Christian teachers. Ghandi once said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

And so I listened to the Mars Hill story in awe. The "Unknown God" that they worshiped finally being revealed to them years later by the apostle Paul gave new life to Acts 17. Because a man cared enough about those who were different from him to talk to them with respect and honor about Jesus - from their own point of view - a church was born in Athens.

That is really all Christianity and Christmas itself it is about: being a messenger of hope to a world that is dark and needy. You can't please everyone. But you can SAVE some if you live your life the way Jesus calls you to live it. Even when it is hard. Even when it is busy. Even when the turkey is too dry and the lights are out on half of the tree... and the shoppers resemble a herd of elephants more than those "smiling" and "laughing" starstruck in the famous carol 'Silver Bells'. Even when you see someone else get something they don't deserve and you think it isn't fair. You never know who is watching you... how you live your life... the words you say... the expressions you make. There is power in humility and loving people. That is what SHOULD make Christianity different than anything else.

From the Mars Hill story (emphasis mine):
"Christmas is humility - laying down our culture and embracing another, relinquishing religious pride and longing to share Grace with other needy people. Vulnerability (like the Richardsons, Marcus Young, Paul, and that baby in the manger) requires sacrifice -the willingness to adapt to others instead of making them adapt to you. Incarnation is the stuff from which the kingdom of God is constructed. It's the real beauty of Christmas, the kind of Christmas that should go with us everywhere we go (Athens, the jungle, your teen's high school, the mall, the office). Christmas was never meant to happen just once a year."
Luke 10:22 ~
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
Are we allowing the Lord to reveal Him in us? Or do we hinder Him by our actions and words?

Let us all commit to putting away our stereo-types, our self-righteousness, our pride, and our sense of personal rights this Christmas... long enough to look into the other person's eyes in front of us and truly wonder what life must be like for them. Maybe they won't ever agree with us or change their ways... but surely they might just see Jesus in us if we offer them a warm cup of hot cocoa and ask them how their family is. A kind word goes a long way.

People need to be loved. Jesus asked Peter to "feed his sheep". Love is what this season is all about. Let us seek Him and ask Him to fill our hearts with love for even the unlovable. That will be the best gift God could put under ALL of our Christmas trees.

Credits for this article:
God who created me
Jesus who saved me
My family minister who ministered to me when I was unlovable
My friends who uplift me even though I'm not perfect
A couple of winners at the HSBA who selflessly gave away their prizes to others
Peter Hiett who wrote Christmas on Mars Hill
You who deserve the love of Christ this Christmas - from Him and others

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Anonymous said...

This is really good Heather. It is an encouraging word to me as I see relationships being more and more self-focused. I have been thinking along the same lines, and it is hard being caught in the cross-fire, but we were not promised a peaceful life. We were promised His peace. His peace cannot rule in our hearts if we are always fighting amongst ourselves.
Humility is a misunderstood virtue. I am not quite sure I even understand it myself. All I know is that as I learn to lean on Him and trust the hedges he puts into my life and the friends, like you, who are willing to be my friend, even when I am not humble, then can God show me my pride and help me to not just chip away at it, but give it completely to Him to return as humility.
Many will balk at this thought, because we do not want to give up our rights. We have been fed a steady diet of "rights" since birth. If we truly want to "be ye holy as I am holy," then we will lay down these rights to be right as Jesus did.
Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, sweetie.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for these words. What a great reminder as we begin the business of the holiday, as we venture into the homes of our family and friends, some of whom may not know Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Donna-Jean Breckenridge said...

What a wonderful post. (made me think of an essay on humility by Andree Seu in the current issue of World magazine).

I have been on the receiving end both of Christians' not acting like they should, and of Christians' so expressing the love of Christ that it took my breath away, and made me feel I'd stepped onto heaven's shores. (I had one such situation this past week.)

I like the latter better :-)

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Cassie - Homeschooling Four said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Very well said!




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