October 24, 2007

When People Aren’t Where You Wish They Were

The last few days have been challenging for me. I don't know about anyone else, but I fight myself all the time. I know that there is a man deep inside me that gets out way too often and there is the man God is forming struggling to keep the deep man under wraps. I'm a dominant personality. I'm a big personality. It is often my greatest strength. Too often, it is my greatest weakness. And the last few days have served as a reminder that I am far from being where I want to be.

One of my greatest struggles within myself is my evaluation and judgment of other people. My natural tendency is to write people off way too quickly. Because of my background and my journey of where I have come from, I can't understand why people approach life so passively. Why they sit back and just meander through their time here on Earth with no passion and no fervor. Why, although they may claim the name of Jesus, they share none of His passions and none of His sufferings. And when I encounter that, I immediately begin to attack that mentality. I may not do it forcefully but I guarantee you I'm loading up the bullets in my thoughts.

When I see folks who have been given so much yet do so little. When I see folks who have such fantastic opportunities right in front of them yet fritter them away. These things weigh on me. I have encountered this in my time of leading a ministry at a local church in St. Louis. I have seen this in employees that I led at Upward. And now I have seen this in certain people at LifePoint. And I have always struggled with the following tension:

When is it time to place a loving arm around them? When is it time to give them a firm, swift kick in the butt to the curb?

You see, Jesus didn't long-suffer with everyone. There were people that he sent away. The rich young ruler, the Pharisees, Judas, the proud, and the lazy were all folks who bore the inpatience of Jesus. There are folks and there are times when the best thing you can do for someone is to put them out. Paul said as much many times about the immoral brother. Jesus said as much when he spoke of spitting the lukewarm out of His mouth.

So what do you do when people aren't where you wish they were? Do you love them? Do you shepherd them? Do you challenge them? Do you guide them? Do you point them in the direction you would have them to go? Do you encourage them? Do you rebuke them? And finally, if all of that fails, do you forget them?

I'll tell you, God has been all over me that I am way too quick to forget them. I desire to wash my hands of them because they aren't living up to the standard that I think they should be living up to. I want to issues the ultimatum: Get on, get off, or get out! Why? Because that feels good! That doesn't require one ounce of patience or thought. That doesn't require one minute of time spent thinking about how the Spirit might be leading me to pastor someone. That doesn't require a single step toward investing something in that person that you may not get back. In short, it's easier to write them off, than it is to walk the road with them.

And God is hammering me right now to try and get me to walk the road with people. Not to tell them whether they belong on the road in the first place. He's been doing that for the last ten years. And because I'm so hard headed and stubborn, it's been hard to get that message across. But I sense that in my soul, the tide might be turning. And I'm excited about that.

What do you do when people aren't where you wish they were? You realize that you aren't where God wishes you were, but He loves you just the same and patiently walks the road with you. That's an amazing thought to live on.

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