Saturday, August 11, 2007

Guilty, innocent, or in between?

Our answers and responses usually indicate far more than the words we speak. A politician who suddenly becomes upset and even angry at a simple question has just told us a lot about himself. A sarcastic defensive retort tells everyone that there just might be something to the charge. If we're innocent, then there's no need for an emotional response. Good leaders shouldn't be easily provoked, and doing the right thing needs no defense.

Old Testament Scripture gives a good test for discerning truth or lie. The person in question was given bitter dust to eat. If he had been lying, strong physical symptoms would be his dead give away. If he had been truthful, the dust would have no effect. His immune system proved strong enough to withstand the test. The guilty succumb while the innocent are unscathed.

Living with guilt and bitterness soon evidences itself and affects all of our dealings. Jesus said that which enters a man does not defile him, but that which comes out. Whatever we allow in makes its home and will soon produces its fruit, good or bad. No amount of stoic self control will succeed in masking the true self. The damage is done internally and externally.

Paul also gives a humility check. Being quick to critically condemn others only indicates that we are just as guilty. The critical, negative spirit, the cutting words and angry responses only serve to condemn ourselves and prove to others that control is an issue.

Unfortunately even partial guilt can produce the same defensive tendencies. Teflon works best with an unflawed surface. Nothing sticks. Power, influence and health are nice benefits for remaining not guilty. Thanks to the Lord for being the only one who can wipe the slate clean and produce an immune system that enjoys innocense.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Teflon man

They used to call Ronald Reagan the Teflon Man. No matter what charges they threw at him, nothing would stick. Charming and good natured, he easily disarmed his harshest critics, usually turning the tables on them. His sense of humor along with strong confidence in who he was and in what he believed proved to be his great strengths.

Doctors tell us that were it not for healthy immune systems we would easily succumb to every viruse and disease. We actually are exposed to, and even carry many of these potential killers. However, "the terrain is everything. The microbe is nothing". Weaken the terrain, and the microbe takes over. Strengthen resistance and the disease never has a chance.

The concept works in politics and in medicine. How about personally, spiritually and socially? Life comes at us steadily with all its annoyances, problems and imperfections. How we manage them is the key. Or better, how we view them is crucial. And what purposes are attached to all of these intrusions? Are we allowing them to strengthen or weaken us? Are we resistant as teflon, or attractive as a magnet? Are we able to deal with stuff, or are we felled by every one of life's blows? The perspective we choose determines everything.

Take Joseph in Genesis, who suffered injustices that would easily overwhelm most of us. His summary: "You meant it for evil, God used it for good." Ten of the spies sent to appraise the promise land feared the obstacles and the enemies. Only two viewed the same evidence confidently confirming that God had promised it to them. David saw the same Philistine giant that his brothers and the whole Israeli army saw. However his perspective was different. Cowardice, doubt and negativity had no chance to thrive. He seemed immune to them.

James tells us to welcome the various unpleasantries of life with joy, because of the strength and endurance they can produce. But again, it is how we look at them that counts. Paul learned that when he was weak, Christ's strength then became his strength. Gladly then he would rejoice in the face of exasperating difficulties. Peter says that it takes fire to refine gold. The greater the heat, the more the impurities are purged. Similarly the church has always thrived under intense persecution. A solution to a proper response is seeing a bigger picture than the problem, and finding its purpose.

In short, all of the difficulties are designed by God to show his children the sin-resistant nature He has given. He doesn't make it impossible for the Christian to sin. He makes it possible for the Christian not to sin. Sin shouldn't find a home in us. What appears as intense trials are sent to prove to us what strength has already been given. That strength is there to resist by nature a fleshly response. It is the Word that builds faith, and faith strengthens the immune system.

Like Ronald Reagan, the believer finds a peaceful, calm strength in the face of even the most trying of circumstances.