The Basics | The Good Stuff
Monday— Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21
“My wife’s supposed to submit to me! I’m the man!” crowed Charlie. He waved a shiny King James in front of his pastor. “Tell her she’s got to submit.” Pastor Ray nodded thoughtfully and motioned for the new believer to have a seat. “So tell me where you read that, Charlie,” he said. Charlie’s face lit up as he flipped to a bookmark. “Right here!” he said. “It’s in Ep…Ephus… whatever you call this here book. There it is. Verse 22.” He beamed triumphantly. Pastor Ray smiled. “Yes, I see. But the big idea begins in the previous verse. Would you read that?” Charlie did and his face fell. “Uh oh,” he said. “I see what you mean.”
We love to find Bible verses that validate what we want, but it’s easy to get off track if we don’t read them in context. One major theme of the New Testament is mutual submission. As Jesus submitted to His Father, we are to submit to one another. That means we don’t demand our own way no matter what. Whether it’s marriage, work, or with our friends, we’re to consider others better than ourselves and their interests as equal to our own (Philippians 2:3). Instead of “You should submit to ME!” our attitude must be “How can I serve you?” Jesus never demanded that anyone submit to Him, even though He was the Ruler of the universe. Instead, He washed feet, healed, and fed people who would later crucify Him. We submit like that.
Final Thought: We’re more like Jesus when we submit our wishes and opinions than we are when we demand our own way.
Prayer: Father, help me learn when to submit to someone else’s wants and when to set healthy boundaries. I want to follow Jesus’ example in never demanding my own way when it’s in the best interest of another to give in. In His name, amen.
Tuesday—Pay to all their dues: tax to whom tax…respect to whom respect, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:7
HOW TO GET ALONG IN THE WORLD: LESSON 1—Treat people right. Think of how much grief and trouble we could avoid if we all did this one thing. That’s what Paul is saying. If you owe it, pay it. If you should do it, then do it. If you should NOT do it, then do not do it. It’s not that complicated. So what gets in the way? Selfishness. Pride. Lust. Greed. We want what we want and we don’t care who gets hurt. So marriages crumble, friendships shatter, neighborhoods erupt, and nations go to war. That’s why we need God Himself to connect the dots for us. He knows how we are and He also knows how it could be.
“But I DO treat people right!” we cry. “It’s THEM! They aren’t treating me right. What else could I do but fire back? THEY started the social media war, the office gossip, the church split. If they’d treated me right, I’d have treated them right.”
HOW TO GET ALONG IN THE WORLD: LESSON 2—Do right anyway. Notice what Jesus did when people did not teat Him right. He responded by either dodging them (John 7:1), remaining silent (Matt. 27:12), or slipping quietly away (John 6:15). He never retaliated, lashed out, or defended Himself. The Lord of the temple paid a temple tax so He wouldn’t offend the Jewish leaders (Matt. 17:27). He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t need to honor the high priest or ask the opinion of a skeptic (Luke 10:26). But He modeled HOW TO GET ALONG IN THE WORLD so we could see what it looks like to treat people right—no matter what.
Final Thought: How are you doing on Lessons 1 and 2?
Prayer: Jesus, thank you that you already experienced everything I will go through and you left an example of how to handle it. If you, as King of Kings, treated people right whether they deserved it or not, I will too. Give me strength to do it. Amen.
Wednesday— “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
“I’m not putting up with that one more time!” (But I want patience from people when I keep messing up)
“Let’s not invite them. They’re not really in our circle.” (But I would hate to be left out)
“I’m gonna go out with Cheap Cherri til I find someone better.” (But I wouldn’t want anyone using my own daughter like that)
“I don’t wanna invite that coworker to church. It’s awkward.” (But I’m sure glad someone invited me)
“It’s just a little white lie. They don’t need the whole story.” (But I hate it when people lie to me)
We call it The Golden Rule and a version of it is found in many cultures. It’s a universal truth because, being in the image of God, we know instinctively that if we don’t like being mistreated, no one else does either. We have the ability to exercise empathy. Empathy is stronger than sympathy. Sympathy feels sorry for them; empathy identifies with their pain. Good relationships require empathy because identifying with someone draws us into a deeper connection with them. C. S. Lewis wrote that “friendship is born the moment one person looks at another and says, ‘What? You too? I thought it was only me.’” When we practice empathy, we want to treat people right because we know how we would feel if the situation was reversed.
Final Thought: Basic social skills use this filter: How would I feel if someone did/said this to me?
Prayer: Father, help me develop a healthy empathy for people in my life. I’m not meant to carry the burdens of the world, but to help people in my life carry theirs. Show me the boundary between empathy and over-sensitivity. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
“But Lord!” we protest. “Did you see what they did to me?” We point at Mt. Everest. “Just LOOK at that! Can you believe it? How in the world can I forgive this? It’s unforgivable. Surely even you don’t expect me to forgive such a huge wrong.” If we stop right there, we feel vindicated. “See? I prayed about it,” we think. “And God agrees with me.” But if we shut-up long enough to listen to God, our perspective changes. “You’ve got the mountains mixed up,” He whispers and shoves an anthill toward us. “Mt. Everest is what I’ve forgiven you. Now I’m asking you to forgive this anthill. Seems only fair.”
When we find forgiveness impossible, it’s because we’ve gotten our mountains mixed up. When hurt and betrayal brutalize our hearts, when wounds inflicted by others continue to throb, those wrongs feel like Mt. Everest. We brush aside the mountain of wrongs we’ve done against our Creator as if they were nothing. “Well, sure, I’ve messed up plenty,” we say, “and I appreciate forgiveness and all…but I’m not going to forgive this person no matter how much they beg. They don’t deserve it.” And we’re right. They don’t. But neither do we. And aren’t we grateful that God offers us forgiveness anyway? He chose to have His Son murdered so that our debt was paid. It cost Him everything to forgive us. Does our forgiving someone else cost that much?
Final Thought: When you feel you cannot forgive the mountain of wrongs done against you, switch mountains.
Prayer: Father, I struggle with forgiving things done against me. They do feel like Mt. Everest. Help me see my sin against you for the mountain that is really is. I’m grateful for your forgiveness. May I show that by forgiving others. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14
Humans have been clothing themselves since the Garden of Eden. We wear clothes in order to cover something we don’t want seen. The Bible talks a lot about clothing ourselves with godly traits so that we cover up those parts of our characters that shouldn’t be seen. If the waitress is terrible, we’re tempted to ream her out. But clothed in compassion and humility, we smile and offer her patience. Your kid messed up for the tenth time? Clothed in love, you can respond like Jesus would instead of blowing a gasket. When we forget to clothe ourselves, we behave like pagans and alienate the people God wants us to reach.
Before we get dressed in the mornings, we first have to take off what we were wearing: PJs, yesterday’s shorts, etc. And before we can clothe ourselves in godliness, we have to take off our natural inclinations like anger, arrogance, bitterness… It’s difficult to pull on a shirt over another shirt and it’s difficult to clothe ourselves in love when we’re already wearing bitterness, envy, or pride. So first we undress by confessing our sin to the Lord. Confession means we agree with what He already knows. “Lord, I’m still angry about X and don’t feel a bit loving today. Please forgive me and clean me up. I’m choosing to dress in love, compassion, humility and grace. Let those traits I don’t have flow through me from your bountiful supply.” When we dress ourselves from God’s closet, we can respond rightly when other people’s crazy bombards our world.
Final Thought: Is your character well-dressed?
Prayer: Father, help me to dress my character as well as my body every morning. Remind me to take off the dirty garments I wore yesterday and clothe myself in the love, compassion, patience, and righteousness of Jesus. In His name, amen.