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A Better Way

October 2012
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We don’t have to look very far to see the reality of 2 Timothy 3:2-5 played out in our culture today: “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

“Having a form of godliness but denying it’s power . . . .” That’s probably the most tragic description listed above, not that the rest of the description is any better, but the clear implication is that there are people who think they are doing okay–“having a form of godliness”–but really aren’t as they are living life on their own terms, not God’s, and the consequences from such actions (or inactions) are deadly.

Complacency . . . . Dictionary.com defined complacency as “a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like: self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.” It reminds me of the metaphor regarding a frog (e.g., “if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death” –quote source here).

Dr. Charles Swindoll gives us the anecdote in a devotion I read this morning titled, “A Better Way”:

A Better Way

Romans 12:10-13

Yourself. Yourself. Yourself. We’re up to here with self! How very different from Jesus’ model and message! Instead of a “philosophy” to turn our eyes inward, He offers a fresh and much-needed invitation to our “me first” generation. There is a better way, Jesus says. “Be a servant. Give to others!” Just listen: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

Know what all that means? Well, for starters, “nothing” means just that. Stop permitting two strong tendencies–selfishness and conceit–to control you! Let nothing either of them suggests win a hearing. Replace them with “humility of mind.”

But how? By regarding others as more important than yourself.

Look for ways to support, encourage, build up, and stimulate the other person. And that requires an attitude that would rather give then receive.

“Humility of mind” is really an attitude, isn’t it? It’s a preset mentality that determines ahead of time thoughts like this: I care about those around me. Why do I always have to be first? I’m going to help someone else win for a change. Today, it’s my sincere desire to curb my own fierce competitive tendencies and turn that energy into encouraging at least one other person. I willingly release my way this day. Lord, show me how You would respond to others, then help me do the same.

To get started in this unselfish lifestyle, let me suggest three basic ingredients: giving, forgiving, and forgetting.

Once we make up our minds to implement the truth of Philippians 2:3-4 (taking a special interest in others) or Galatians 5:13 (serving others in love), those three basics will begin to emerge. Instead of always thinking about receiving, we’ll start looking for ways to give. Instead of holding grudges against those who have offended us, we’ll be anxious to forgive. And instead of keeping a record of what we’ve done or who we’ve helped, we’ll take delight in forgetting the deed(s) and being virtually unnoticed.

It is impossible to give yourself away at arm’s length.

Source: Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 360
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

Here’s an example from my own recent experience that came to mind as I was reading this devotion. Usually, when I’m grocery shopping, I’ll notice people around me who might need some assistance (for example, a short person or someone in one of those “riding carts” who needs a grocery item that is too high for them to reach) and I’ll help them get the item. I think lots of folks do this for others in this type of situation. However, for some reason lately when I’ve been out shopping, sometimes a person (usually an older woman) will get right up beside me in my “personal space” and either bump into me and/or grab something off the shelf right in front of me. Usually, I respond by moving out of the way and letting that person get whatever item she wants. And, most of the time I find myself engaging this person in a brief conversation like a couple of days ago when this happened in a grocery store and an older woman grabbed something right in front of me–something I just had in my hand but decided not to buy. In that case, I engaged her in conversation and found out that she was on a very low-carb diet. And, we both agreed that that particular item was not exactly low-carb. She told me she had recently lost ten pounds watching her carbs and I congratulated her as I know how difficult it is to lose weight, and I told her she looked great–oh to be as skinny as she was–as we ended the conversation and went our separate ways.

However, yesterday this same situation happened again in a different store. Mind you, the stores are not crowded at the time I shop as being unemployed I can shop during the day during the week when there are no crowds, but after having this same experience happen several times in the past couple of weeks, I found myself being annoyed this time around. This woman yesterday was practically in my face (seriously). She was so close to me that she probably breathed in the air I exhaled, if that gives you any idea how close she was to me. So I asked her if she was looking for something in particular and when she told me what she was looking for I showed her where the item was (which was right in front of her). However, this time around, instead of trying to engage this particular woman in conversation, I just walked away and bought what I had in my arms and left (which is all I planned to purchase in the first place). I did engage the cashier in a brief, pleasant conversation as I was paying for the few items I purchased.

As I left the store I realized how annoyed I was by this particular incident. I thought to myself, “is this how older women shop nowadays with little patience for other shoppers who appear to be in their way?” Apparently so, but I think it has little to do with age or gender. I just happen to be out shopping most of the time when retired people (mostly older women or couples) are out shopping–e.g., when the “crowds” (working people) are not there.

I realized part of my annoyance had to do with the frequency this had happened to me in the past couple of weeks, and in her case, she was so “in my face” that I had to move as she wasn’t budging. And even with her lack of courtesy towards me I did ask her if I could help (and gave her the answer she needed). However, what got to me the most was how long I let her lack of courtesy annoy me after I left the store (actually, not long but long enough). I did try to help her and was pleasant about it, too, but I had no desire to engage her in conversation beyond that point. She wanted my space, so I gave it to her and left.

However, this morning when this incident came to mind, I wish I had remembered to breathe a quick prayer, “Lord, show me how I should respond to her.” I don’t know the reason why this woman so intentionally invaded my space in the store (there were maybe all of a half a dozen shoppers in the entire place at the time, including her husband), and maybe she was just having a bad day. But instead, I was just really annoyed. That didn’t stop me from trying to help her, but it did stop me from talking with her any further then I needed to.

We live in a very impatient society and it’s getting worse all the time. As the descriptions listed in 2 Timothy 3:2-5 continue to play out in our interactions with others (and we can find ourselves many times in that list, too), may we try to remember to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. It’s not always easy, and we don’t always get it right . . .

But it’s a starting point . . . .

YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts (2006):

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