I would imagine that we can all agree that 2020 was a year we would like to forget!
Of course, the pandemic is tops on our list of things we don’t want to bring into 2021. Hopefully, we are turning the corner to better days…as we all do our part to slow the spread.
An area of concern and prayer for me is a different pandemic…a pandemic of mistrust…divisiveness…and ill-will for others. It is as old as mankind. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Satan…Cain kills Able…nations battle nations…one group mistrusts another throughout time:
A turtle family went on a picnic. They had prepared seven years for their outing. The family left home, searching for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey, they found it. For about six months they cleared the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. They discovered, however, that they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed.
After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt at home. Although he was the fastest of the slow-moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. He agreed to go on only one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left.
Three years passed—and the little turtle had not returned. Five years. Six years. Then in the seventh year of his absence, the eldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and began to unwrap a sandwich. At that point, the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, “SEE! I knew you wouldn’t wait! Now, I’m not going to get the salt.”
Some of us, like that little turtle, don’t trust anyone or give anyone the benefit of the doubt. We waste away our whole lives waiting for people to live up to our poor expectations of them—we look for the worst in people.We can be thankful that God doesn’t treat us that way. He accepts us just the way we are. He believes in us. He cheers us on. He thinks the best of us. He is proud of us. When we mess up, he forgives and forgets, and gives us another opportunity to do good.
So if that’s how God treats us, it makes sense that that’s how we are to treat others. Let’s not think the worst of each other. Let’s expect, encourage, and help others accomplish their best.
I think most of you would agree in principle to what I have said…but how do we put it into action? How do we get past preconceived biases toward individuals and groups of people different from us?
Well…as Christmas is still fresh in our minds, we think of peace!
After all, the Christmas cards and the Christmas carols tell us that there should be “peace on earth!” Peace is a lack of conflict… harmony. So what is that all about?
In Luke 2:14 on that first Christmas, the angels proclaim to the shepherds… “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Did that mean that all fighting and hatred ended with His birth? No! But it was based on the fact that this baby in a manger… Jesus…is the long-awaited “Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6…For to us a child is born to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
But this Peace was different…this Peace was not a peace backed up with a military presence…but a Peace with God! A peace that was found in the Garden of Eden…and a Peace that will prevail for all eternity in God’s heavenly kingdom.
And even today…in the midst of the earthly chaos…It’s a Peace given to you through the Holy Spirit…Galatians 5:22…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
A Peace that changes who you are…and how you relate to others. The Peace of Christ living in you. A peace that allows you to be an avenue to peace on earth?
Well, the truth is that each of us has the same marching orders.
Mark 12:30-31…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Can you imagine the Peace on earth, if each of us did that…if we loved God above everything else in our lives…and let that spill over in our attitude toward others???? We could change the world, one person, at a time!!!
Sandhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929) was an Indian Christian mystic who was raised in the Sikh religion but became a follower of Christ through a vision. On one occasion he and a companion were traveling through a pass high in the Himalayan mountains. At one point they came across an injured man lying in the snow. Sundar Singh wished to stop and help the unfortunate man, but his companion refused, saying, “We shall lose our lives if we burden ourselves with him”.
But Sundar Singh would not think of leaving the man to die in the ice and snow. As his companion bade him farewell, Sundar Singh lifted the poor traveler on his back. With great exertion on his part, he bore the man onward, but gradually the heat from Sundar Singh’s body began to warm up the poor frozen fellow, and he revived! Soon both were walking together side by side. Catching up with his former companion, they found him dead…frozen by the cold.
It’s only when we forget ourselves and live totally for Christ, that we discover the abundant (Peace-filled) life God intended for each of us!!!!
So…as 2020 comes to an end (yahoo!!!) and you step into 2021…I want you to take some time to assess and to make some needed changes to…receive the Prince of Peace into your heart…and…to be an avenue of that Peace to others:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This can only happen if you get to know Him intimately….to pray and seek His will daily…to read and apply His Word to your life daily. Asking Him to lead you through each day to accomplish His plans for you. To seek His will…to keep your eyes open for opportunities to get to know Him better and to love Him more!
- ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Look for opportunities to reach out to “all” people in your circle of influence. Ask some hard questions of yourself: (what group of people am I bigoted about…pray for your attitude to change and then pray for those you don’t agree with) (who individually do you “not like?” Who do you ignore and wish they would just go away…pray for that person…and for your attitude to change) (Ask God to help you see all people like hand made by God…people that He sent His Son to die for their sins, just like yours) (look for and embrace commonalities with others instead of focusing on differences)
1 John 3:16-17… This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
That same verse in the Message translation puts it this way:
1 John 3:16-17 (msg)… This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.
If that is to be our mindset for fellow believers….how much more for those who don’t know Jesus…as you share the gift of the gospel!
May you find the Peace of Christ in 2021…may you serve the Lord and glorify Him through your thoughts, words, actions!