Comfort & Counsel

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by Jacob Ninan

Many things are wrong everywhere - the world as a whole, countries, governments, societies, churches, organisations, families, individuals. And it is true that we all suffer from the consequences. It is also a fact is that we have all inherited from our ancestors Adam and Eve the tendency to spontaneously pass the blame for anything wrong to somebody or something other than ourselves. We even blame God. Having put the blame on others in the first place, we also tend to think, that is the end of the matter and we don’t have to do anything now. Then our focus turns to wanting the others to change. We complain, we nag, we inform other people, we pray and we use strategies of threat, tears, silence, etc., to try and force the others to change. This usually aggravates the situation. Finally we give up hope and either move away from the situation or get reconciled to complaining or whining constantly. It hardly occurs to us that perhaps we need to change or that perhaps part of the problem is us or our wrong response to problems.

Criticising the government – from the panchayat or corporation level right up to the central government – is a pastime for a lot of people. Some of us are great experts at this. But perhaps we have not even bothered to vote or we have not bothered to check the antecedents of the candidates when we voted for them. After shirking our responsibilities there how much right do we have to criticise them? Do we even try to understand the issues we are discussing or are we just airing out opinions carelessly?

At the individual level, a lot of discussion goes on about other people, what wrong things they have done, how much we are suffering because of that and how they ought to change. In all such discussions we try our best to come away with the support of others and with our own image unscathed!

Taking off from what the apostle Paul said, the thing that we are judging, are we doing that ourselves (Rom.2:1)? Or have we contributed towards the thing we are judging? Do we dump our garbage irresponsibly just like everyone else and then complain about the lack of cleanliness or the increasing stink? Do we complain about the other drivers and the pedestrians but we do the same things they do when we are in their position? When we have a quarrel with someone do we try to understand their point of view or only insist on speaking out what we think? Do we let the others bear the brunt of our feelings and misbehaviour but we expect them to be patient, understanding and nice to us? We can apply this to many different areas of life.

A common denominator we can find in many such issues is that we are not doing what we ought to do but we are demanding that others should do everything right towards us. We freely admit we are imperfect, but at the same time we demand perfection from the others towards us. We are not willing to realise and admit that we, all of us, are individually doing many things wrong. We are unwilling to take responsibility for our own lives but we want everyone else to be responsible for what happens to us. But ultimately, “each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom.14:2). The average person is very good at giving an opinion about everybody else. God is not going to ask us our opinion about others but only about what we ourselves have said and done.

The problem is in our mind and attitude. Selfishness is what is at the core and that is what blinds us to our own mistakes. Think of a typical situation where someone has done wrong to us. Thoughts of anger, revenge and self-righteousness come into our minds crowding out every other thought. Then we say or do something in return which we never actually wanted to say or do but we do it in the heat of the moment. This, of course, infuriates the other person and he gives it back to us double fold. It goes on.

If we were to think reasonably we could have realised that even though the other person has done something wrong we do not have a licence to do wrong in return. It would be our responsibility to return good for evil (Rom.12:21). We could perhaps be patient with him, forgive him, and talk to him gently so that his wrath might be turned away (Prov.15:1). But we are not thinking about such things at all but only about what he has done to us and how he could have done it to us righteous people! So we give it back to him with a higher degree of venom or we decide to exclude him from our friends list. Then we can go around telling our friends what this man has done to us. We feel quite justified about what we have done because we tell ourselves that it was because of what the other person did that we responded like this! The tragedy is that even after the anger cools down it does not occur to us that we should have responded more gently or kindly towards him. If we were a little more mature we could have been even thinking of the struggles he might have been going through and felt compassion for him!

But the problem is that we don’t take any responsibility in the matter at all. It’s all the other person’s fault. Isn’t this a major reason why we don’t grow up even after many years of knowing Christ?

We who were born in sin and who have picked up many sinful ways and become habituated in them by the time we come to Christ for salvation, need a lot of re-work or renovation to be done in our lives before we become like Christ. It is foolish to expect this work to be done entirely by Christ when we come to Him. He expects us to respond to the Holy Spirit as He moves in us. But what ground will the Spirit have to work with in our life if we do not even acknowledge that we need that transformation? If God wants to make us perfect like Christ, how would He be able to start that work in us if we think all the work is to be done in others?

The spirit of the times is also directed at making us think well about ourselves and shielding ourselves from everything that can create some negative feeling within us. In other words, it moves us into a cocoon where we live an unreal life developing only nice thoughts about ourselves and ignoring or rejecting anything that will make us aware of our lacks or failures. But we cannot become better people if we don’t recognise where we fall short. And, we cannot recognise our faults if we shut out all our introspection and also comments from others.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Lk.16:10,11). Faithfulness cannot begin without taking responsibility for our own actions. Even though the reference in these verses is about the use of money, we can understand that faithfulness in the different areas of life is what causes God to entrust more important things to us. On the other hand, unfaithfulness with what we have been given can also lead to God taking back what He already gave us (Mt.13:12).

“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1Tim.4:16). We need to develop a clear awareness of what we are, the gifts and abilities God has given us, and what we lack. We must take up full responsibility for what we do, the choices we make and the impact we have on the world around us. We need to take heed to the feedback that comes to us from God and other people that can help us to become better people and become more useful to God and people. God is at work in us, and so we must allow Him to break down the things that are displeasing to Him and build up things that will bring delight to His heart.

-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, November 2015

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