Sometimes I read a command from God and I think, “why is that even in there?” This is a no-brainer. Seek good and not evil. And yet in this simple command, we so often fail. Why is that? Is it our nature? Is it the influence of the world around us? God places before us good and evil. We want to obey God. We want to serve God. And then we choose evil. I know, as a parent, that even when I know the right choice, sometimes letting my child make the wrong choice is better than me forcing them to make the right choice. Maybe that is why the command is in there.
The story from Matthew jumped out at me today. Especially the two demoniacs. You’ll understand later. Jesus demonstrates his power and his compassion and love for people in casting out the demons. The town finds out about the miracle, the people come out to see Jesus and they beg him to leave their district. I find this incredibly sad. As ambassadors for Christ it seems like a no-brainer. Jesus loves you. Jesus offers you a full and meaningful life. Jesus displays his power to offer you eternal life. Everyone should want this. And yet people say please leave the district. So, how can we present our treasure? How can we persevere through rejection and serve God?
My wife and I are foster parents. Recently we received an emergency placement of a sibling strip. In other words, the police took two sisters and a brother (ages 6, 4 and 2) from their home and brought them to our home. Move some boys around, open up some beds and, viola, instant expanded family. Some people have said, “wow, you and your wife are saints. Well, maybe my wife. Others have been less kind. One person told me, “you think you are making a difference, but you are not. You are a band-aid masking the real problem.” Isn’t it strange? You receive all that encouragement and the one word of rejection is the one that affects you the most. It’s so easy to slide into self-doubt and second guessing. Did we make the right decision? Which can lead to doubt of and bitterness toward God. I’m doing my part, why isn’t God holding up his end and keeping his promises? And that leads to a downward spiral of paralyzing self pity. It emphasizes the destructive power of an unkind word and the importance of an encouraging word.
Foster parenting brings all sorts of new experiences. Have you ever been in a store when a young child had a total meltdown? Kicking, screaming, crying and completely out of control? Well, I have now. You would think a 55 year old man could control two very young girls. I couldn’t. My own two little demoniacs. I told my son to pick up the 4 year old and we were leaving the store. Needless to say, everyone in the store stopped to stare at us. As we approached the exit an elderly woman stepped in my path. She said the lid to her coffee mug was stuck and asked if I could help her with it. My initial reaction was, “Are you crazy? Don’t you see my situation?” But I stopped, unscrewed the lid and handed the mug back to the woman. She smiled, thanked me and wished me luck. At that moment I realized how bad this looked. Two older white males dragging two young black girls kicking and screaming out of the store. And I realized the courage and wisdom this woman had shown. She was not big enough to stop me yet she did just that. She assessed the situation and me, determined I was not a bad man and the girls were not in danger and we went our separate ways.
Encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ is huge, but it doesn’t have to be something huge. It can be a kind gesture or smile. It can be the offer of an encouraging word. It can be asking someone to unscrew the lid on your coffee mug. Have you ever entered your name in a drawing where it said, you have to be present to win? The same can be said of our serving God. We can’t withdraw from the world and serve God. We can’t ignore others and serve God. We have to be present to receive the treasure of God’s promises. My prayer today is for the courage to be present and encourage.
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