Monday, April 03, 2006

Meeting God in the “Woodshed”

Day before yesterday as my wife and I walked on the canal in Indianapolis we approached a fellow talking loudly on a cell phone. I heard some choice words that should not be spoken aloud (or even thought) anywhere, but especially not in a public place.

Sometimes my lack of wisdom is exceeded only by my unlimited stupidity and I do things without considering the full consequences. Unfortunately, that was one of those times. As we walked rapidly past him, I said, “Hey, watch your language.”

I don’t know what I thought that would accomplish, but it certainly wasn’t successful. All I did was add to the foul language in the world, acquire some new names for myself and have my ancestry questioned rather loudly. I realize now I also could easily have gained some nasty bruises if he had decided to do what he was obviously thinking.

I did not recognize my own self-righteous behavior for what it was until several hours later. About four o’clock the next morning I woke early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so, as is my custom, if I can’t sleep, I usually pray. Eventually I came to the time in my prayers when I pray for the lost. At that time I thought of the “cursing man” (So called because we weren’t properly introduced.) but by then I was listening to God instead of being stupid, and the Lord showed me that my self-righteous attitude had interfered with what he had wanted me to do, and was thus a greater sin than that man’s inappropriate language.

I was a child of God and professed to be a “Christ-one” or a Christian, but actually, I had not behaved at all like Christ. The Bible tells us when Jesus saw someone like that he had compassion for them because he saw they were lost, like sheep without a shepherd.” By contrast, when I heard him, I felt contempt because he cared so little for those around him.

I had to spend the next few minutes confessing my sin and asking God to change my self-righteous attitude. I also asked the Lord to help me, the next time I heard something like that, to feel compassion at the moment, rather than several hours later, after I saw my sin in the light of his righteousness. Finally, I prayed for that man and all others like him— asking God to save them and draw them to himself so they could experience his love and become the people their heavenly Father created them to be.

Then I also prayed for myself and all other misguided Christians, who try to do the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing conviction by using the devils tactic of condemnation. It doesn’t work. It never has worked and never will. We cannot accomplish the purposes of God by using the methods of Satan, because God’s methods are a part of his ministry. When we use Satan’s methods we can only do Satan’s work. If we want to do God’s work, we must use God’s methods. In a situation like this, Satan’s method is condemnation and God’s method is unconditional love. I know that! But I don’t always live what I know.

The good that came out of that experience was at least two fold and I hope three. First, by God’s grace, I didn’t get beaten to a pulp and cause that poor lost soul to wind up in prison for attacking a stupid old man. Secondly, probably for the rest of my life, when I pray for the lost, I will remember that man and others like him and, with compassion for their lostness, pray for their salvation. Because, by the grace of God I now love him. And it truly is by God’s grace. Because I dislike vile language, I have never felt unconditional love for those who use it in public. I have, in fact, always felt contempt. I have been totally unaware of my garbage attitude and have always (falsely, I now realize) felt morally superior. The final good I hope will come out of this experience is that God will help me feel compassion for people like that when I hear them, rather than several hours later after he has taken me to the woodshed.

You and I both know it did absolutely no good for me to say what I said. It had the opposite effect of what I thought I wanted, which was to reduce the world of language pollution. If I had used the wisdom and grace of God to just pray silently for him as I passed by, I would not have caused him to sin by inspiring more vile language, I would not have risked the safety of myself and my wife, and I might have been an instrument used of God, in some amazing way that only He fully understands, to bless someone instead of curse them.

I am fully aware, but often forget, that condemnation is a curse far worse than vile language.

I'm Rick Blumenberg . . .
and that's my view, from Tanner Creek.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Grandpa,

I just wanted to let you know that I've enjoyed reading your blog. Your a good writer, and I've found your posts thoughtful. I think your making some really good points.

Write on,

Josh