How often have we relied on rationalizing wrong behavior with a simple, “Well, I’m no saint. I’m no worse that the other guy?” What’s God’s expectation? My friend, lifes a story, stayed tuned for more on This Passing Day.
My daughter Hannah owns dogs: small ones and big ones. She not only owns dogs, she manages them. She has expectations of her pack that go beyond that of most dog owners. If a dog misbehaves, she corrects it with a combination of commands and touch. Just recently her Australian Shepherd misbehaved. It wasn’t anything terribly serious, but it crossed the line from what Hannah felt was proper behavior. Her reaction was stern and prompt. The dog stopped what it was doing, dropped its head, and glanced upward with its eyes focused on hers. Hannah pulled the dog nearer to her, rested her hand on the dog’s mane as she made the verbal correction, and applied pressure at the same time. Holly and I have dogs as well–Wiener Dogs. Wiener Dogs often misbehave. In fact they’re known for their stubborn and encourageable behavior at times. I’m much more lenient than Hannah with my dogs, however, willing to let dogs just be dogs at times, whether that’s an occasional bark or failure to respond to a command. Hannah reacts when I become negligent in this manner. “Don’t let them get away with that Dad.” My response is, “Well, they’re not saints, they’re just Wiener Dogs.” I cop out where she doesn’t. I know she’s right since its well known that Wiener Dogs aren’t stupid; they’re quite smart and can be obedient if their owners make the effort to correct unacceptable behavior.
How about you and I? How often have we relied on rationalizing wrong behavior with a simple, “Well, I’m no saint. I’m no worse that the other guy?” Nevertheless, what’s God’s expectation? Is he content with us just being the best sinners we can be, or is he more interested in correction and putting pressure on us drawing us closer to himself in obedience?
Here’s a story. One cold winter’s day a crowd of people stood in front of a pet shop window and watched a litter of puppies snuggling up to each other. As one moved in closer to the others, the others would move as well, pulling closer to the one that moved in the first instance. Finally the litter was a close-knit pile of puppies sharing a stack of mutual warmth. One woman laughed and said, “What a delightful picture of brotherhood! I mean, look at how those puppies are keeping each other warm! What a great example they are setting for us.” Standing next to her watching the same puppy pile develop was a man who smiled as well, but with a skeptical hand to chin replied, “I believe that you’re mistaken mam. What we are seeing has nothing to do with brotherhood or sharing as they’re not keeping each other warm–they’re keeping themselves warm.” (adapted–Today in the Word, February, 1991, p. 20.)
As skeptical as that sounds, it’s an apt description of how many Christians approach Godly obedience. “I don’t think that God expects me to be perfect, right?” When we lay claim to an attitude of “good enough” works for me, so it must work for God, we reveal the source of the problem, like those puppies, selfishness. Living the Christian life is challenging, especially these days. Nevertheless, God’s expectation hasn’t changed from the beginning. He bids us in Christ to follow him. I don’t think that God is talking about at a distance here. He bids us to draw near and follow him closely. In so doing we ARE saints and the expectation IS that we will strive to be seen as such. Like those Wiener Dogs, you and I aren’t incapable of obedience, we just need to look up to our Lord, feel his presence, and put our pride on the shelf. Our lives are about others and not ourselves. When we start acting like the Saints that we are, our lives will reveal a brotherhood that is real and true; the brotherhood of Christ in us.
We pray. Thank you Lord for declaring us Saints as we dwell in the presence of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Forgive us Father when we stand off, comfortable in the little sins of life that give us comfort. Help us Father to recognize that we are Saints in Christ and that with this new identity comes the expectation that Saints act like Saints. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!
Therefore my friend, Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself; each day has enough trouble of its own. This Passing Day. (Matt 6:34)
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