Monday, March 5, 2012

To Honor, Respect and Love… EVERYONE

Imagine a world where everywhere you went, you were highly respected, honored, and treated kindly, in love. A world where, no matter who you ran into, they treated you well, in an authentic way.

You get up Monday morning, say your prayers, take your shower, eat and get ready for the day in your usual manner. You remind yourself that God loves you, and that you love yourself, before walking away from the mirror.

People on the highway are courteous to one another, making sure not to be rude or insensitive to others’ needs to get where they’re going. Or if you’re on the bus, the driver greets you well, and you receive hellos and smiles all around when you board. People ask you with genuine concern how you are, about your weekend, your family, the hobbies they know about, and so forth. They are genuinely interested, and you are, in turn, genuinely interested in them; in how they have been, their weekend, their lives.

At the store, the office, church, wherever you go throughout the week, there is a sense of honor, respect, and love genuinely emanating from each person you meet. No matter how surly someone might have been earlier in the day, they made sure they didn’t negatively affect others, and they apologize sincerely if they did. For every comment that is insensitive, there is automatic self-correction and asking for forgiveness. Nobody is making fun of other people; nobody is trying to disrespect their own or other people’s bodies. Movies, television, music, internet get much cleaner because people will not tolerate dishonor, will not tolerate disrespect, will not tolerate hate, apathy, self-degradation or degrading other people. Even the sense of it, the mere hint of it becomes stomach-turning because society has learned what it is to love; to genuinely care about EVERYONE they encounter, even if not in person. People treat others how they wish to be treated: with honor and respect… all the time. Not because their freedom to do otherwise has been washed away, or because anyone told them they had to, but because they genuinely wanted to.

What a world would we have then?

What if it started with you, with me? What if we decided from this time forward to work toward an ever-honoring, ever-respecting, ever-caring and loving attitude toward others in a way that Jesus would be proud of? That He would genuinely smile at. What if, instead of being selfish, we became more selfless? What if, instead of insensitive to others, we made a point to get to know and recognize what bothers others and do our best to avoid hurting them in those ways? What if THIS is part of the calling of a CHRISTIAN that we have ignored?

What if we were called to have good etiquette and manners? What if we were CALLED to treat each and every person we meet, no matter who they are, how they behave, how they dress, what they say, with honor, respect, and love? What if we have missed the mark every time we DIDN’T do this? Perhaps we have. Perhaps we have fallen short so often in this area, we forget we really ARE CALLED to honor, respect and love everyone, no matter what. And we ARE called to treat others as though they are royalty… ALL OTHERS… as though they are royalty, because they have been created by the King of Kings, the ONE TRUE KING, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, and have been made in His image, whether or not they are actively in relationship with Him as their Father at the time, or not. We are called… we are called… we are called to KINGDOM RULES; to KINGDOM living; we are to behave as the ROYALTY that we TRULY ARE in GOD’s SIGHT. And we are called to do so in a humble manner; as in an earthly kingdom, the Godly Kingdom calls for a SERVANT’S HEART.

We have all seen how Princes William and Harry are SERVING OTHERS with their lives. They aren’t just there sitting in a castle, making pretty faces at people and telling them to bow down. GOD, too, calls us to SERVE… not merely to be served. He calls us to honor, respect, and love others the way HE DESIGNED for us to. And He says, don’t take sides with people; don’t treat one person better than any other… I believe that includes ourselves. We are not to treat ourselves better than other people; we are not called to treat others as better than ourselves. We all are made in HIS IMAGE; we are all IMAGE-BEARERS of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

What is a KING, but a ruler who serves? What is a LORD, but a master in whose service it is supposed to be a privilege to be under?

Rahab the Prostitute didn’t stay a prostitute forever. God took what others saw as trash, made her His treasure, and placed her in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rahab FOLLOWED GOD by saving the Hebrew spies, letting them safely leave and trusted GOD with her life, and the lives of her family. She was destined to marry one of those Hebrew spies and become a several-times-great grandmother to the Lord Jesus Christ. God REDEEMED her past with her future. He was KING and LORD in her heart before she even knew it, because of the honor, respect, and genuine un-lustful love of the spies God sent her way, and it won over her heart. She SERVED the spies, and God, rather than being selfish, self-centered, and fearful of the king of her land. She honored and respected the GOD OF THE HEBREWS before she knew she even had encountered Him.

King David had to SERVE to get where God wanted him… he had to FOLLOW the LORD’s direction and leading to go from shepherd boy to king and ruler. He paid a HIGH PRICE for that… and he wasn’t perfect, but HE KNEW THE GOD, the one and only True God, Who IS, and followed Him as well as possible. He may not have seen all the steps along the way; he likely didn’t foresee each of the twists and turns in his life that God preplanned for due to what God knew he would do, where he would fall short… but God used even his deepest, darkest places – adultery and premeditated murder – and turned it into such good that only GOD could have done it: Solomon, his son with Bathsheba, becoming the next king, and eventually, Jesus the Christ coming through his own lineage. The very GOD Who forgave and delivered him was later delivered in a stable nearby to oxen and cattle by a young Hebrew girl who descended through his line.

Martin Luther, known now as the Father of the Reformation and beginner, as it were, of the PROTESTANT movement, had to SERVE to get where God wanted him, too… he had to FOLLOW the LORD’s leading to go from Catholic priest with a hitch in his get-along to fiery reformer. He, too, paid a high price. He, too, had to FOLLOW as well as he could the ONE TRUE GOD. He paid the price of being considered a heretic to help others realize they could have personal relationships with God, as He intended all along.

Rosa Parks had to SERVE as God led her to when she PROTESTED on a bus, leading to better treatment and equality for those of African ancestry within the United States because GOD HAD FOREORDAINED her to play a role. In the process, she paid the price of being treated with disdain and disregard most of her life… and getting to the point where she was fed up with it, tired, and resolved that she would no longer be subject to the evils of racism that were prevalent throughout the South and the US as a general whole. She took a stand for being HONORED, RESPECTED, and LOVED as she was, as GOD does, so that people could see where they WERE FALLING SHORT so God could work on their hearts, and on the fabric of this nation, to help people better treat and care for one another in the long run.

Throughout history thousands and missions of people have decided it’s time… time to HONOR, RESPECT, and LOVE themselves enough to take a stand. Time to HONOR, RESPECT, and LOVE GOD with all that they are, in accord with His command. Time to HONOR, RESPECT, and LOVE their fellow man, no matter the circumstance or the cost, because it is part of the call of the follower of CHRIST JESUS. Some have been killed for these efforts; for following their LORD. Some have been criticized, others have been tortured, but OTHERS… others have garnered high respect from those around them, even if we never learn their names before reaching heaven. And many of those tortured and killed have, in their deaths and tortures, gained the respect and honor and care of those who tested them in this way, for whatever the reason was. Those persecuted have a testimony that speaks much more highly and fully than mere words ever could. And those who have been blessed to live where they can freely worship the LORD, freely share His love, honor, and respect… His grace, mercy, and message with others without prosecution, persecution, torture, death threats, and the like… don’t always take as seriously the commends of Christ. We have grown lax in following; lax in OBEDIENCE to His Word to us to HONOR, to CHERISH, to RESPECT human life. His WORD to LOVE all people as we would hope and want to be loved, not with lust but true love; phileo love; friendship and stewardship for others.

So I speak not of a utopian society when I ask you to imagine a world where there is continual mutual love, respect, and honor, but to imagine a world where, even if people neglected to follow some of the other commands of Christ, if we ALL FOLLOWED this ONE command, life would be such a better, different, and more positively heavenly thing to experience. If we BELIEVE GOD… if we EXPERIENCE HIM… why do we not FOLLOW HIM? If we KNOW His personality, His character, is TRUE… that He is Living Love, that He is ever-present, ever-forgiving, never-changing… if He proved His love for us by coming down to earth flesh-enwrapped as a baby, grew up under the tutelage of human parents, learned to serve, learned a trade, went to Temple, learned about God the Father from others, laying aside the power to know everything about everyone in His fleshly form while still having it in His Spirit form as the Father and Spirit, ministered to people, walking through mud, touching the unclean to become unclean Himself in order to heal, interceded for us before, during, and after laying down His life voluntarily to SAVE US from our SINS and our SELF… then how can so great a LOVE be ignored? How is it that we find it hard to follow His commands when He has done sooooo much for us? Just because He doesn’t wave a magic wand when we want Him to, are we going to love Him less? The Word says that if we love God, we will obey Him. That is how He differentiates between those who genuinely LOVE Him and those who only show off lip service.

What about YOU?

We are told to choose LIFE or DEATH, BLESSINGS or CURSES. One way to choose LIFE and BLESSINGS is as easy as obeying Him, come what may, Who created and knows us best, loves us with an undying love to the point of His death and resurrection in our place. Jesus became the DEATH, the CURSE, in place of us, who are sinful; we aren’t ever going to, in our own right, be good enough for Him. We are ALL sinful and ALL fall short, but the GOOD NEWS is that BY FAITH we are made RIGHTEOUS, HOLY, and BLESSED in Him Who DID die in our places. God doesn’t tell us what to do because He wants us to be His puppets. He tells us things because He wants us to have LIFE, and His words are LIFE. If we close our eyes and ears to HIM, the One Who created us, we are in a place of DEATH. Without a vision, the people perish, and without the Master Visioner in our circle of trust and relationship, there is visionless death. There is curse and death instead of life, blessings, and vision when we choose to actively disregard, disobey, or refuse to even see or hear what God is saying to us, individually, as a family, as a church, as a work team, as a nation, as a continent, as a WORLD.

Well, how does God speak to me, then, you might wonder? When do I see God at work?

Have you ever met a newborn baby? That’s a miracle right there.
Have you ever had a dream that came true? A dream that showed you the answer to a question you had been searching for?
Have you ever “all of a sudden” come up with something that you found helpful, just when you needed it? Be it an idea, a provision, or whatever?
Have you ever met someone you “knew” would be important in your life, but maybe you didn’t know why?
Have you ever wondered how someone was doing, and then all of a sudden heard from or ran into them?
Have you ever been out in nature and been captivated by something you see or hear? Did you learn something from it?
Have circumstances ever “fit into place” just right, and you didn’t necessarily understand why?
Have you ever prayed for something, or about something, and then the answer came from another person when you weren’t looking?
Have provisions shown up just in the nick of time when you thought all hope was lost?
Have you ever been invited to do something you always wanted to do, where it was to help someone else or experience something that later helped you relate to someone else?

These are evidences of God at work; evidences of Him speaking to you or into your life; evidences that He is thinking of and loves you, exactly as you are, but wants you to become even better because He knows your full potential and your destiny.

God speaks to us through The Bible, the Holy Spirit, creation (nature, other people), and in dreams and visions. He shows us things He knows we will need in order to grow, learn, and become more like Him. He ever-invites us to the dance of life, to the dance of LIVING IN HIM, in the Son, beckoning and wooing us with His love and grace. You are beautiful to Him even when your actions and words aren’t. He HONORS, RESPECTS, and LOVES you even when you do not follow suit. Love doesn’t demand its own way. It isn’t selfish or self-centered… and as God is LOVE, neither is He. He wants the very best for us, no matter what it takes. Even if it means going through some rough and painful times to get us to the place He knows we will be most blessed, most alive, most loved and fulfilling our destinies, our purposes, our callings… He will do whatever it takes, take away or add in to our lives whatever is needed, to draw us closer to Him for His glory and our good.