From time to time I have to get on to my kids. Many people expect my kids to be perfect because I’m the preacher, but guess what, they’re not. And that’s OK. We are all humans trying to figure out how to be the best at whatever we are, and parents is one of the things we are, and we are still learning daily.
However, the other night I was watching my kids, and in their mischief, I learned a valuable lesson about God and us.
One child was being bossy to the other with us parents in the room, so we corrected the bossy child reminding that we were the parents. Have your children ever done that?
This child was desperately trying to help the other one behave properly, but the error was in overstepping us to instruct the other child. There was integrity in the motive, but the response was in error.
As I was thinking about how this all unfolded, I was reminded of how many times I have been tempted to be the voice of God to put others in their place. I genuinely want to help others behave and fall in line with the will of God, but is that my place?
This is different than me telling others the way of God through teaching, preaching, or the friendly conversation in which they seek my perspective as a preacher. I am talking about the times we butt in to correct someone, or we attempt to control the behavior of someone else, and, then, we are frustrated when they do not behave according to what we see is the best way by God’s will.
Unfortunately, we are not God. Wait. No. Strike that. FORTUNATELY, we are not God.
I wonder if God is thinking about our overstepping our roles as peers of others, fellow-creations, when we try to control the lives of others using the Bible to coerce and manipulate. I wonder if God wants to correct me like I correct my kids when they boss one another around.
We are all humans, and we all have been called to know Jesus and therefore God, but not everyone will hear that call. So, we must remember our place.
When a Christian is misbehaving, we should not get huffy or high-and-mighty to put them in their place. When a loved one is living outside the will of God, we should not beat them over the head with morality in the name of Jesus. When someone chooses a political party other than ours (why we even hold to one party or another as citizens of the Kingdom of God is for another discussion), we should not lambast them on social media to persuade them to change sides.
So how can we get the world to change if we cannot take the place of authority as representatives of God?
Love keeps no record of wrong. Love rejoices with the truth. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. Love is not self-seeking. Love is patient and kind. Love is…
Remember those words from the apostle, Paul? When you stand in authority over someone who was created equal with you to dictate policy to them, you are overstepping your boundaries as a saved sinner. When you speak with anger, judgment, criticism, contempt, disdain, etc… you not only hurt your witness, but you hurt the reputation of the church, and you tarnish the image of Jesus in the minds of those who hear you.
When Peter told the church to always be ready to share the reason for your hope (1 Peter 3), he said to do it with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. When Jesus met with sinners, he helped them, then he said, “neither do I condemn you, now go and leave your life of sin (John 8).”
We have been called to love in humility, so that the lives of others will be touched by the love of the Holy Spirit flowing through us. When we want to put people in their place and take on the role of the judge, we are like children bossing one another around. Nobody wins in that situation.
So let us win the lost and change the world through love, humility, service, patience and kindness…the way Jesus did.