I got an email this morning from a friend and she shared a great passage of scripture with me. I want to share it with you....
"Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity. God brings the best out of you, and develops well-formed maturity in you.
We are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? Let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.
If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy, share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody." (Romans 12:1-15)
When my friend sent this to me, she said,"This is what we should model our lives after." I can agree with her, this is the way I want to live. There are so many things in these scriptures that stand out to me. The Message Bible always says things in a way that hits close to home.
One thing that really bothers me is all of the severed relationships - it's like chopped off fingers that are talked about in the above scripture. If they aren't severed yet, they are being held in secret. It's not freedom when people are afraid to go to dinner with an old friend for fear of being seen with someone who left the church. It's not freedom when the people who you have been friends with for years are afraid to speak to you for fear of someone "telling on them." Since when did it become normal for a person to be told who they can and cannot speak to? The scriptures above talk about being good friends. They talk about loving deeply. In these churches you are expected to cut-off all relations with anyone who has left. If you don't, you are labeled a "renegade." This is so sad to me! This has left so many people wondering, "If a friend can so easily cut me off, then were they a true friend to begin with?" I have compassion for all of the people who feel they are required to cut people out of their lives, because they really don't see what they are doing (at least I don't think they do). One day I think they will see and regret it. God forbid that it would be too late to restore their relationships.
Another thing that is even worse than severed friendships is severed family relationships. We have had the impression that we have to "endure" family events because our families don't believe like we do. We have felt we were being persecuted, when our family was really looking out for our best interest. When I told my brother I had left my church, he said,"My prayers have been answered!" He had seen the control I was under and he was genuinely concerned. We should take the time to enjoy our families while we have the opportunity. I have always told my children, "If a relationship ever starts to come between you and your family - be it a friend, a girlfriend or boyfriend, or even a church, it is not of God." I know there are exceptions, but for the most part this is true.
Why have people gotten so far away from the simple love of God? It breaks my heart to see a husband and wife divided or when I hear that people haven't seen their children in years. These things should not be. The church should be the ones saying, "Go be with your family." If we would just read the scriptures and live by them, then we wouldn't find ourselves in situations that we regret. Most of the things our parents taught us about being nice to our friends, not keeping secrets, and taking care of our brothers and sisters, were right! We shouldn't let others pressure us into acting in immature ways. When people say, "I won't talk to those people who left," that's immature. The verses above say, "God brings the best out of you, developing maturity in you." I want God to bring the best out in me, and that's His love.
I guess you can sense my passion about this. I have seen the hurt on too many faces. We must all realize that so many things that we thought were right and important because of the way we were taught, pale in comparison to what really matters in life. God is not hard to figure out. He is love and He wants us to love others. If something promotes division, it is not promoting God's love. While reading the scriptures above, I was impressed at how much they exemplify love, freedom, unity, laughter, happiness, and friendship. This is what we should model our lives after.