DISCLAIMER: This has religious content. If you are uncomfortable with that, please don’t read. Otherwise, happy reading! As always keep comments family friendly and respectful to me and to others.
Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me so much that I could hardly take the instruction all in. I do believe He is amazing and awesome in all He teaches and is. Here are some of the life lessons He’s been teaching me (and warning: they are DIFFICULT lessons!)
1.) Love your enemies, for the consequences of vengeance are more than treating them with love and kindness.
God has been teaching me through interactions with difficult people (or i.e…current or former “enemies”) a concept that I will call “heaping burning coals on one’s head.” This is from Romans 12:19-21 (ESV-bold emphasis mine), where it says: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
For example, in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, about a man who enlists in the army as a medic because of his conviction never to carry a weapon to kill others, the aforementioned guy was often ridiculed and berated by his fellow army colleagues and even the supervisor of his unit. However, instead of berating and ridiculing them in kind, he just stays silent, as Jesus did when He was crucified on the cross by His enemies. Also, this army man, named Desmond Doss, saves even a few of his enemies’ (read: the Japanese that he was fighting against) lives when they were injured in the war too, as well as many of his colleagues who ridiculed him before. Doss ended up being more respected and loved than any of his colleagues because of his conviction to save lives rather than destroy them.
In my own life, unlike Doss, I initially sought vengeance against people that hurt me in my words and actions. However, God quickly changed my heart and I repented of that. I admit that I still have trouble with that sometimes, but God is working in and through me to help me continue to show repentance on my part. One person at work I had a particularly difficult time showing any semblance of godly love and respect because of all the flaws I perceived in this person and the fact that this person (I thought) never tried to change and repent of this. However, when this person told me what they had had to go through on a daily basis, God began to change my heart and have compassion and even love for this person. The Holy Spirit prodded my heart to share this person a song that had also spoken to me as encouragement for them. He (The Spirit) also told me to help this person more in their work because I realized they were feeling too overwhelmed with stuff. So, I am working on that.
2.) Don’t judge others by your first few impressions of them. Actually get to know them very well (i.e.. for years) before you even have one inkling of a judgment against them.
Rachel Joy Scott, who I consider to be one of my “heroes of the faith,” aptly summed this lesson that God has recently taught me well, in these words:
It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the first and the second and the third impressions can be deceitful of what kind of person someone is. For example, imagine you had just met someone, and you speak with them three times on brief everyday conversations. They come off as a harsh, cruel, stubborn, and ignorant person. You reach your judgment based on just these three encounters. Let me ask you something…did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and not just at their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type,” you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow, if you don’t walk away from those three impressions first.
(Taken from “My ethics, My Codes of Life,” written by Rachel Scott, source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
I have often been guilty as charged for judging someone just by several encounters of them or even maybe several months of brief encounters with them without really knowing them well or how much they may hurt inside. For example, the first time I met one of my managers, to me she came across as cruel, uncaring, and very strict. I did not like her at all, and did not even think about being Christlike to her, to my detriment. After complaining to another higher-up supervisor about this person and after she understood where I was coming from better, we became good friends. Imagine how it would have been like for us if either or both of us didn’t make the effort to be kinder to and understand one another better! How awful! How miserable it would have been for both of us! We both realized how wrong our first impressions of each other had been, and we even found out that we have a lot of similarities and similar tastes!
Also, in the movie Hacksaw Ridge, Desmond Doss the soldier who was a conscientious objector to using weapons in defense was initially judged by his superiors as being weak, self-righteous and cowardly for his beliefs. However, when Doss continually held firm to them, even risking jail time and not going to his own wedding, and when he continually served his comrades (and later saved their very lives) despite their initial ridicule and dislike of him, one of his superiors eventually gained much respect for him and even asked for forgiveness of his (the superior’s) earlier erroneous judgment of Doss.
3.) Die to self. Continually be willing to sacrifice for others, for this reaps great rewards not only for the other person you’re serving but for yourself as well. (However, don’t sacrifice to play the “martyr;” do it for God’s glory!)
Recently, I visited a family member who no longer lives with me. I was amazed and awed at how much he had sacrificed during my stay with him to accommodate me and make me feel at home! He didn’t even allow me to wash the dishes! He was constantly willing to sacrifice his own comfort and often sleep to make sure all us guests in his home felt comfortable and happy. He never played the “martyr” or had a “poor-me” attitude about any of this! This is how I want to be too and how God is teaching me to be—being more willing to sacrifice for others and essentially continually dying to self.
I also realized when one is willing to die to self, everyone around them has a much easier and more comfortable time being with them. This is because these people know that this person who has died to self can be counted upon when things get messy or difficult because they are willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the other person or other people. In contrast, a completely selfish and self-centered person, has the attitude that they come first and they are “entitled” to be catered to at their every whim, or else no one is happy. This is very stressful and inconvenient for other people, especially when the selfish person’s needs are different than or inconveniencing these other people’s needs.
These are all difficult lessons that I am still learning, and that we all need to review daily in order to live more Christlike. I admit I am not perfect in any of these lessons, but God constantly prods and pushes me into greater depths with Him as a result of me constantly learning these lessons. May we all take in something from these lessons God has been teaching me, and apply it to our own lives, in order to make a positive experience in other people’s lives.