I Lovingly, Respectfully Decline the Invitation

Galatians Chapter 5 (The Message)

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

22-23But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Matthew Chapter 18 (The Message)

21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"

22Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 (The Message)

1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

James Chapter 3 (The Message)

3-5A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!

5-6It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

7-10This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!

10-12My friends, this can't go on. A spring doesn't gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don't bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don't bear apples, do they? You're not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

Live Well, Live Wisely

13-16Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here's what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn't wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn't wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn't wisdom. It's the furthest thing from wisdom—it's animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you're trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others' throats.

17-18Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

-------------------

In my experience, the above words are difficult if not impossible to follow unless our hearts and spirits are filled - to the brim! - with the love of Christ.

Some of us are filled that way, miraculously, directly through God's Spirit. Many of us, however, need help from human friends to finally get there. Pray for the filling of the Spirit, and if you need human help getting there, seek it, accept it, be willing to change, and to let go of some of the things you have in order to get it. It is worth the effort.

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Comment by Alice M Yaxley on 10th mo. 21, 2009 at 6:37am
What's the invitation that you're declining, Raye? I love the scripture quotes - some of my favourites there - but I don't understand why you've put them under that title here.
Comment by Raye on 10th mo. 21, 2009 at 10:46am
Thanks for asking, Alice. These are the passages that come to mind whenever I receive what I consider to be an invitation to sin through tale-bearing, detraction, and other similar behaviors. I could not think of one clear word to describe it at the time. I had considered "conflict," except that some conflict is normal and can be handled in a healthy way. But there are some who appear to be "conflict junkies," who often seem to seek to "stir the pot," and when I receive the occasional invitation to get drawn into that, I lovingly, respectfully decline (at least most of the time, when I am paying attention to the Lord). These passages are my reasoning and my admonition to myself and others. They explain where the unhealthy conflict comes from, and how the Lord's people are to treat others. If I had used the word "sin," that covers such a wide range of behaviors, and I was specifically concerned with the sins we commit in the community and relationship realm. Perhaps thee has an idea for a word or short phrase to complete the idea?
Comment by Alice M Yaxley on 10th mo. 21, 2009 at 10:57am
Wow, thanks Raye! That's really useful for me to read. I have a long way to go in learning how to live God's way.
Comment by Raye on 10th mo. 21, 2009 at 11:06am
There's much to learn, that's true! Thanks again for asking about the connection between the title and the material. I did not mean to be mysterious, I just outran my vocabulary (c:
Comment by Jonathan on 10th mo. 25, 2009 at 11:13am
Raye, thank you for posting this. There's plenty here that I need to consider and learn from.
Comment by James C Schultz on 10th mo. 28, 2009 at 12:14pm
Nuggets of gold from a mine of riches.
Comment by Charles Martin on 2nd mo. 7, 2010 at 3:23pm
Thanks Friend for listing these passages. The Peterson translation, The Message, is somewhat new to me, I've read parts of it over the past couple of years at the suggestion of a Friend who reads from it when he wants to quote scripture durin his Meeting for Worship. He found it more accessible to those who are unfamiliar with the scriptures than more traditional translations. I find it helpful for me to remember that Christ Jesus teaches us that he is The Wa, these passages show how that is.

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