Holier Than Thou

There are days when people are jerks.

Being human, I want to be a jerk back.

But I’m usually not.

I usually vent to a close friend (or 9), and move on.

I tell myself to be “the better person”, turn the other cheek, and forgive (that pesky F word!).

When it’s the same person doing the same thing over and over and over and over again… I remember that Jesus said to forgive someone 7 x 70 times (That’s 490 times)…

When I start keeping track, God tells me that I should love those who hate me…

And then I remember that verse in  1 Corinthians that says love keeps no record of wrongs…

And I’m back where I started telling myself to be “the better person.”

Maybe some would call this a “Holier Than Thou” attitude… except I’m not trying to be better than the person who is harassing me…  I’m trying to be better than myself.  I want to be “the better person” that God pulled me out of my sin to become. I am not self-righteous, but I was given the righteousness of Christ to walk upright, no longer a slave to sin. And while I’m still getting my bearings from being chained down for so long, God has grace enough to catch me every time I stumble.

So every time that I get upset and want to give to someone what I think they “deserve” I remind myself that I deserve hell. If God hadn’t pulled me out of my old life, I would still be headed in that direction. It is with that heavy conviction that the desire to pray for those who persecute me begins to stir in my heart. It is with that knowledge that I can willingly forgive any trespass against me, because I know that the same was done for me when I didn’t deserve it.

Sometimes I wish God wouldn’t give me the things I ask for in the moments when I’m feeling pretty strong in my faith… because it’s in those moments when I ask Him to make me more like Him… but God doesn’t just snap His fingers for requests like that. He will give opportunities to grow into those characteristics. And even though I don’t enjoy the opportunities themselves, I’m thankful that He loves me enough to refine me a little more each day, so that I can be a little more like Him.

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” — 1 Peter 1:15-16

Cheap.

Valentine’s Day bothers me. Not because I’m terminally single, but because it feels cheap. It’s an opportunity for companies to make money by defining love as a transaction. And I’m not upset because people capitalize on our own willingness to sell ourselves for temporary enjoyment of fleeting pleasures…

It upsets me because that’s all people think love is.

Love is not a debt. We don’t owe it to anyone. It can’t be bought. It’s a gift that is freely given… without expectation of getting anything in return.

But who does that these days?

We’re all jaded and only looking out for Number One. That attitude turns “I love you” into “I love you because…” That is conditional love. It’s why we see more divorce in this generation than ever before.  I love you because you make me happy. I love you because you are beautiful. I love you because you make me feel safe… But once the conditions are no longer fulfilled, we decide we’re not in love anymore and are free to walk away.

The real problem is that we are trying to find fulfillment in another person. We all have deficits in our lives, holes that have been created by our past experiences that we desperately try to fill so that we can feel at peace. Peace meaning nothing is broken and nothing is missing. So we go to the junk pile of human solutions to try and complete ourselves. Ultimately, you can find something that will tide you over for a while, but it’s never enough and it never lasts. We seem to have a stupid cycle of settling for a while, then searching for the next thing as soon as we can’t stand settling any more. Like we believe that if we just wait long enough, that the love story from the movies will be played out in our own lives.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? The devil always plays the same trick on us… making us believe that we’re missing something… when we’ve had all we needed from the very beginning… And we buy it every time…

In this generation, people think of God and they think He’s all about rules and regulations… No drinking and partying, no sex until you’re married… and it has to be with the same person for the rest of your life! (gasp! the horror…the horror… (heart of darkness reference! +10 points from my 12th grade English teacher!))

But it’s  funny that Jesus boiled down all the “rules” into two commandments in Mark 12:30-31

  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

And it’s also funny that God boiled down the sins of the world into two wrongs in Jeremiah 2:13

 “My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

God is love. He loved us first so that we might love one another. He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins… even the sin of forsaking Him. That doesn’t even make sense in my tiny human brain. He told Hosea to marry Gomer (what an unfortunate name) so that He could illustrate how He loves His people, though they continue to whore themselves out to other gods, false idols that cannot give life, and to show that He would take them back no matter where they have been…

Where have you been? Did you even know that you are dearly loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe? That there is no price He wouldn’t pay to have you back? And this love is given even without your reciprocation. It’s unconditional, no strings attached, you don’t even have to say “The Sinner’s Prayer” (though if you feel compelled to accept Christ, I highly encourage you to do so.)

So if you are so loved, why would you want the fake candy-coated version that eventually leaves you with wide hips and tear-stained cheeks?

That’s what this blog post is really about… our willingness to pay for a cheap imitation of love, when the real thing is free and waiting for us.

Another thing I feel like God has taught me a lot about His love is the chance to give it out. I work with kids with autism.  A lot of people would call my kids  “unlovable” because they break every nice thing you buy them, they throw disproportional temper tantrums when they don’t get their way, some kids will never speak or show any sign of affection towards you…

But it’s when I am forced to listen to all the faults of my kids, I start to look at myself… I’ve wasted countless blessings in my life, I complain to God when my “plan” for my life isn’t going the way I think it should, and if I’m really honest… I forget to pray more times than I remember… but God still loves me, even though I don’t deserve it. And it is because He loves me that I am able to give love to those who some would deem “undeserving” of love. And it’s not a love that can ever be repaid or reciprocated… it’s simply given because I have it to give.

So, based off of that knowledge, that is why I think Valentine’s day is cheap. It’s commercialized and done up to make you feel like you HAVE to do something… I’m not saying that you can’t buy your wife flowers or write down all the things you appreciate about your husband… but maybe ask yourself where that love is coming from… is it from a broken well? Or is it from the wellspring of life? Is it Living Water or radioactive water? All I’m saying is that if you need a “holiday” so that you can buy a greeting card with words someone else wrote to express how you feel about your significant other… you might want to check your heart… And if you think buying someone a Vermont Teddy Bear is a good idea… it’s not.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8