During our small group meeting a gentleman shared about his recent journey to the Philippines and the life changing experiences he had there. One of the most powerful truths he saw during his visit was the importance and influence of community. It reminded me of some blog posts I did about two years ago on living life in community and so I submit them again for your perusal. I will be posting the series again over the next two weeks while I am working on a set of posts about Acts. I hope that this series is a blessing to you.
Everyone who believes has God’s approval through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference between people. Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.
Romans 3:22-23 (GW)
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)
My daughter asked me one day why people do bad things and I quickly replied, “Some people are just bad.” It was a lazy answer, certainly wrong and dreadfully insensitive, but in the moment it satisfied the ponderings of a seven-year-old little girl. Fortunately the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me get away with such bad theology – and bad parenting – and kept bringing me back to her question. Why do people do bad things?
I came across the passage in Philippians 2 one day soon after the conversation with my daughter (it is one of my favorites), and the words jumped out at me. Obviously my view of “bad” people was not in line with what Jesus desired of me, especially in light of Paul’s words in Romans 3. Somewhere I had let a false perception creep into my thinking and it had skewed how I thought of others. The devastating realization was that I had in essence told my little girl she was a bad person.
I have always enjoyed the writings of C.S. Lewis and his essay, “The Weight of Glory” is one I need to return to from time to time.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
It is very easy to lump people into categories and affix our labels and go about our lives in the comfort of our well-organized world. However, if we are looking for a better life, a richer experience of God’s presence, a deeper understanding of His love at work in our lives and the lives of others we will change our perception of what humanity is and what it can be. When we understand that each of us will either be forever broken or forever made whole, we should be motivated to work toward the one and work against the other. Instead we think we are okay because of how bad someone else is or because we are good at hiding our own brokenness.
After reflecting on these passages, I had to sit down with my daughter and explain that people do bad things because they are broken and that all of us are broken. It was a simple conversation and a simple explanation, but her education in this area will advance with years. She needs to know that we are all broken, that we all do bad things, and that it is the love of God that heals us and makes us whole; that in loving Him we find the grace and mercy to love ourselves and others because His love is greater than our own. She will need to know that brokenness is not an excuse for our transgressions. I will need to teach her that humility is the key to loving other people in the midst of their brokenness. I will try to show her that it is a far great thing to be better for the sake of others than it is to be better than others. I will try to show her what it looks like to move toward wholeness so she will know her way along the journey.