Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Life Is Tough When You Don't Have Reverse

Wendy Bagwell tells a story about picking up a new Volkswagen at the docks in one of our coastal cities in order to avoid paying the shipping charge. He drove his new car off the docks without receiving any instructions concerning the operation of the vehicle. He knew how to drive and that was all he figured he needed to know. At lunch time, he pulled up to a restaurant, turned off the ignition and went inside to eat. When he came back from lunch he jumped into the car and discovered that he couldn’t find reverse. Finally he had to push the car out into the street by hand in order to continue on his way.

Of course Wendy's Volkswagen did have a reverse gear. He just didn't know how to find it, but think how frustrating it would be to own a car that wouldn't back up. You wouldn’t buy a car without reverse even if the manufacturer were willing to knock a thousand dollars off the sticker price.

Unfortunately many people who wouldn't think of owning a car without reverse try to conduct human relations without reverse. Marriages break up and friendships are severed simply because stubborn people won’t back up. We dig our feet in the ground and just absolutely refuse to say things like, "I was wrong," or "I'm sorry," or "It's my fault, why don’t we just back up and start over?" The Bible identifies the source of this destructive behavior trait and warns, "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18). The passage implies that you need reverse in your relationships as much as you need it in your car.

Jesus had an opportunity to emphasize this lesson to the apostles. He talked about the importance of forgiving others who have wronged you. The apostle Peter asked him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." In other words, for the sake of maintaining good human relations you need a reverse. You must not allow pride and stubbornness to stand in the way of a positive relationship with others.

The apostle Paul demonstrated this great quality in his life. John Mark, who traveled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, for reasons unknown to us, left them in the middle of their work and returned home to Jerusalem. Later, when they were preparing to embark on their second missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them. Paul adamantly refused to do so and there was such a sharp disagreement that these two servants of God separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him to the island of Cyprus; while Paul took Silas as his traveling companion. Evidently, Mark proved himself to be a wonderful servant of Christ in later years. So convincingly did he do so that, in his last letter, Paul instructed Timothy to bring Mark with him "for he is very useful to me for ministry" (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul did not hold Mark’s past mistake against him forever, but was willing to forgive and reestablish a relationship that had been severed.

For the sake of maintaining good relations with others, don’t forget to use "reverse."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Most Excellent Way

Jonathan Swift once remarked, "We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another." In the great "love" chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul urges Christians to develop the quality of love (1 Cor. 13). Love is the "circulatory system" of the body of Christ. Paul wrote these words in the context of having to deal with many of the problems faced by the Corinthian congregation. Many of their problems were due to a lack of love. Notice some of them: abuse of miraculous gifts, division, envy, lawsuits, to name only a few.

One of the characteristics of love is its enriching quality. Paul reminded them that the exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing without love (13:1-3). Love is like mortar that fuses bricks together. It is one of the supreme evidences of genuine discipleship (Jn. 13:35). It is the essence of being God-like (1 Jn. 4:8).

Another characteristic of love is its edifying quality (13:4-7). Love doesn’t tear down; rather, it builds up. Love puts up with much that is not pleasant. It manifests kindness for which every heart hungers. Love is the opposite of envy which ultimately destroys the one whom it possesses. It keeps its chin up and not its nose. Love does not have an inflated opinion of itself. It is polite and courteous to all. It practices good and gentle manners. Love is not prone to violent anger or exasperation. Though injured, love governs passions, restrains tempers, and subdues feelings. It does not love the wrong, nor does it love the fact that wrong has been done. Love is optimistic.

Another characteristic of love is its enduring nature (13:8-13). Miraculous gifts such as prophecy, tongues, and knowledge were only temporary. These gifts assured the truthfulness and certainty of the gospel message (Heb. 2:3). Now that the message has been confirmed there is no longer any need for them, but there will always be a need for faith, hope, and love in every generation.