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Posts Tagged ‘self-seeking’

When Paul describes “these people” with a long list of attributes, I think we forget that the list needs to hold together in its totality, not pointing fingers at folks who may demonstrate one or two or even a few similarities. This full list is someone wholly trapped. And apparently, the worst version of this kind of person is one who “teaches” this way to others.

II Timothy 3:6a, 8
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women [or men] . . . Just as Jannes and Jambres [traditionally believed to be Egyptian magicians] opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men [or women] of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.

Let’s review the list of behaviors or attributes:

  • lovers of themselves
  • lovers of money
  • boastful
  • proud
  • abusive
  • disobedient to their parents
  • ungrateful
  • unholy
  • without love
  • unforgiving
  • slanderous
  • without self-control
  • brutal
  • not lovers of the good
  • treacherous
  • rash
  • conceited
  • lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God
  • having a form of godliness but denying its power
  • [II Tim 3:1-4]

This is a comprehensive list and not one to treat lightly. I don’t know anyone like this in my world. I just don’t . . . or do I? Of course, I know people who are rash sometimes or conceited, I even know people who act with no self-control and they can boast or be unforgiving, and certainly I know tons of young people who are disobedient to their parents. But none of my acquaintances fall into the morass of the list as a whole. Do they?

But we are warned here that there are people like this. And because there are, we need to be wary because this description is not necessarily of the terrorist or the killer or the drug lord. This array is about secret sins. This catalog describes someone whose internal life has been ground up and rearranged. This person is living a lie.

It’s one of the reasons why Paul specifically says, “They are the kind who worm their way into homes. . . ” [vs 5]. This person is a chameleon who adapts to the environment, cunning and crafty.

I’m not even sure, such a person is conscious of it, but instead, justifies all choices with a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement.

And yet, my greatest defense remains the same: right living, faith in God, love of others, and the making of peace.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment. Protect me, my family, my community, my nation, my world.

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Sometimes I sound like a broken record as I write these meditations. The same words keep rising to the top of my reading and writing: love, grace, others, and then more love, more grace, and so on. There is no good work, no anointed task, no Christ service, that is not first touched by grace.

Ephesians 4:7, 11-12a
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. . . . It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, . . .

Anything else I do is still, all about me. I tell my teens and now twenty-year-old that the universe does not revolve around their “sun.” But, am I any different really?

Are any of us?

There is a song from the musical, “Dreamgirls,” in which the character, Effie, is dropped from the group and she sings, in between promises from her boyfriend/promoter, “What about me?” “What about what I need?” “What about how I feel?” This song resonated with me during the performance and I know it resonated with anyone who has felt that sense of being cast aside. Where did we miss it? How did we get sucked into this path?

This is still our fear in the face of stepping out on any new trail. Will God really be there? How will I be perceived? What if I fail? What if I am wrong and cast aside again? What if I am missing God?

During today’s sermon, we were asked if we would be willing to “step into the water” while it’s still rushing (based on Joshua 3). Would we step out in faith and trust in the grace?

I have had my share of disappointments in service to God. I’m pretty sure that most of these disappointments came about because I was walking forward with one part of my body while another part was looking back (just to be sure I could get back if I needed to). I always have a fail safe. If this doesn’t work out, I can always . . . [fill in the blank].

On my recent retreat weekend, a woman shared her desire to go into ministry by attending seminary. At first, she tried to do it part-time with the security of her full-time job. But then, she needed to jump in, head to toe. She needed to abandon the way back in order to fully trust the way forward. That is a form of grace.

That is the kind of grace I want to embrace. I think.

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I Corinthians 13:4b-6
. . . It [love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

If love is not these things, perhaps it’s a good idea for me to consider the antonyms. I can’t really “do” or “practice” a “NOT.” So I looked them up.

The opposite of the verb envy is to be confident or contented, to be generous and giving. Do I reflect love in this way? Is my love toward others unwavering and confident. Am I content with the love I have as well as the love I can give. Interesting though, these are actually “states of being.” I cannot practice contentment and confidence, not really. I can turn a corner and choose. And generosity comes from within. Generous giving comes from confidence and contentment. So, perhaps, “not envying” what others have is indeed the first step toward contentment.

The opposite of boasting is to be modest, quiet, and deprecating (playing down what one has). It’s not that I don’t have the “stuff” or the relationships or the love or the ability, it’s that I don’t brag about what I have. This brings to mind the “ugly American” who travels with a chip on his/her shoulder, expecting service up to certain standards. It’s an “I deserve” attitude. All of those cliches like “keeping up with the Joneses” are counter to the basics of not boasting. Our of pride in the accomplishments of our children, we often provide litany after litany of their successes, their grades, their jobs, their scores.

The opposite of rudeness is kindness, politeness, and respect. This I can practice, if I choose to do so. The more kindness I show, the more politeness, the more respect, the less rude I will seem. Politeness has gone out of favor. Our children do not recognize politeness as necessarily important. But do we realize that love requires this of us? If I love my children, I should also be kind, polite and respect them for who they are in each stage of life. It is my job to model that.

The opposite of self-seeking is similar to the opposite of envy — it’s giving, benevolent, and caring; moral and ethical. This is the essence of mindfulness of “other.” These are the traits of the humble. Really, it reminds of stepping out of costume, the selfish costume, and showing the tender center within. It’s casting off the habit of selfishness.

The opposite of anger is joy, pleasantness, calm and being soothing. I cannot practice joy, it’s a result, but I can be pleasant instead of not, I can look for my inner calm and bring it to the surface, I can be soothing to the one who is hurting. I cannot be angry if I am doing any of these other things. There is no longer room for anger.

The opposite of “not keeping a record of wrongs” must be forgetfulness, choosing to “not recall” or dismiss the offense. And of course, forgiveness. They go hand in hand.

The last antonym for “not delighting in evil” is provided for us and is a surprise: rejoicing in truth. I would have thought it would be delighting in “good,” but instead, Paul chooses truth as the powerhouse to overcome evil. I can indeed practice truth and with it, I will be able to walk away from evil and lies.

The opposite of pride is humility. And each one of these opposites is embraced in this one word. Oh Lord, I am so far. Give me courage to embrace and exercise those aspects of love that will help me evolve truth in humility.

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