Margaret and I have been visiting our son and daughter-in-law in Kalispell, Montana, during the last week. In the process we have been reminded of what cold temperatures are like (although locals would laugh at my referring to high 20s and low 30s as cold). Our time together here has been so good, so relaxed. We headed to Spokane yesterday (the weather looked good to get over Lookout Pass) and then home today.
Kalispell sits next door to Glacier National Park and a couple of days ago we headed there to take in some of its beauty. The low clouds and snow on the ground kept us from exploring or seeing much, though. We’ll save Glacier for our next trip.
Something we did see was an interesting place on the way to the park. Surrounding three large wooden crosses was an expansive half-circle of billboards, all proclaiming the Ten Commandments, the U.S. needing to be a God-governed place, or anti-abortion messages. The place was closed, so I am not sure about the overall goal of the place. It would seem somebody there wants to change the thinking and behavior of those who pass by. For me, the display of giant signs was a “2 x 4 up side the head” reminder of our human tendency to attempt to change the behavior of others.
I respect a person’s right to put up large signs proclaiming what they believe to be religious and moral truth, even as I think the signs do much more harm than good. People aren’t drawn to God through “sledgehammer” signs, civil legislation, or threats of impending punishment. Jesus understood the human mind and heart and from the upper room Sinai proclaimed –
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:34, 35
Thinking that we are supposed to change the beliefs and behaviors of others creates a lot of pressure and tension within us. It is a huge burden to be the conscience and judge of others. Ever desiring our good, Jesus lifts that burden from us and reminds us that the Holy Spirit is an expert at the kind of conviction and convincing that leads to change.
But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. John 16:7, 8
The Holy Spirit will do the convicting. We have been freed from that role. If we want to “change” others there is really only one way, and that is to truly love them, without strings, without demands, without agenda. Christianity has somehow become something Jesus never intended. Christianity isn’t about power or even about being “right.” It is about love and unity.
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. John 17:20, 21
God is about relationships. Always has been. Choice theory is about relationships. Always has been. He created us to be in harmony with others, indeed, to love one another. In God’s words there is no stronger example of His way of being.
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