Saturday, July 30, 2011
Blog Series - Fighting the Good Fight - Gym Session 1: Love is Patient
Living the Christian lifestyle sometimes resembles shadow boxing. In the theoretical arena of the air with no adversary but their own imaginations, boxers display moves and style that appear skillful, impressive and even intimidating, only to have their lack of skill painfully exposed in the presence of a formidable real life opponent! As a Christian, I find myself relating to that scenario when it comes to living out the faith I profess to believe. In the safe environs of church, elder meetings, a personal Bible study or other obvious “Christian settings” it can be relatively easy to display Christ-like conduct – after all, the others in those settings hold the same values and the risks to display righteousness are minimal. But what happens when one ventures out of the “gymnasium” of Christian practice and jumps into the “ring” of “Real Life”? A recent encounter the arena of real life exposed some “ring rust” in my own life and motivated me to begin a Blog series on skillfully fighting the “Good Fight” in faith. I’ll be exploring various Bible passages dealing with good character and Christian conduct and presenting some thoughts on moving the responses to Biblical truth from the head to the heart. My first few offerings will come from 1 Corinthians 13, the great passage on love. I’ll start with the first attribute that the Apostle Paul lists as a critical piece of one’s love arsenal. “Love is patient!”
I needed to rent a car and immediately upon arriving at the rental counter, it seemed I might be in for a unique experience. Though I had called well in advanced, the agents were ready to call it a day, and were not handling the increased traffic in their office particularly well. People were jumping ahead of their turn, and the situation was becoming semi-chaotic. When my turn finally arrived, the encounter began normally enough. “Mr. Jackson, thank you for your patience! We have a car ready for you, but it needs to be prepped. While we’re waiting, I’d like to get a little more info from you. For mileage purposes, where are you headed?” [Miles are unlimited for trips to neighboring states, while states that are not adjacent to one another accrue an extra charge by the mile. I was headed to Iowa, adjacent to Wisconsin to the west, so there wouldn’t be a problem. I didn’t take into account the poor showing of US college graduates on US geography knowledge.] “I’m headed to Iowa.” I responded. “Oh that’s too bad. Looks like we’ll have to charge to by the mile for that one.” My jaw dropped. It had been a long day, and this display of geographic ignorance was the wrong response at the wrong time in my life on that day. “IOWA.” I repeated slowly but emphatically. She responded without missing a beat. “Yes, I know. It’s not really a neighboring state, so we’ll have to charge mileage.” She smiled condescendingly as she answered. At that moment, in my mind, there was verbal ammo being loaded, mental safeties being released and scathing modes being set to full automatic. I wasn’t going to put up with this kind of nonsense. Just as I was about to unleash a verbal tirade reminiscent of a 1970’s Bill Murray comedy, I heard a still small voice speak to my heart. “She thanked you for being patient. Love is patient. You just preached about loving your neighbor. She is your neighbor. You must love her by being patient. You can challenge her conclusions, but you must do it lovingly.” Aw Maaan. “Stand down!” I thought to myself. “Ma’am” I responded gently. “Perhaps you thought I said Idaho. I said Iowa. I'm headed directly west, to the Wisconsin border to IOWA.” At that moment I noticed her coworker looking on, eyes wide, HOPING that her colleague would realize the mistake and also hoping that I wouldn’t enter into the tirade I was considering just a few moments before. As if a light switch was flipped, the agent suddenly snapped into realization and responded “OF COURSE! YES! IOWA! Of course there’ll be no mileage charged!” With that, we continued on with the transaction without incident and I jumped into the vehicle and began my journey to Iowa.
The point? If I had acted on my impulse, according to my own impatience and selfishness, what turned out to be a relatively mundane event could have escalated into something unpleasant if not downright ugly. I needed to be reminded that it isn’t enough to preach that love is patient. I have to live it out if I’m serious about being like Jesus. I need more time in the “Gym” with God’s word, and more devotion to applying my Gym work in the ring of real life. How about you? Are you just shadow boxing and posing as a “good fighter” or are you training hard and preparing to put your skills to work when the challenges are hardest? Love is patient. Prepare yourself for those little everyday challenges so that you can walk like a champ who brings glory to God and not slump like a chump who’s an embarrassment to the faith. Until next time….