"The Ol' Switheroo"
There but for the grace of God . . . that would be me . . . .
The unregenerate mind cannot hear this . . . . Without the Spirit of understanding, it sounds like delusion, or worse, arrogance . . . . But I am not writing to such . . .but to the sheep.
When you realize that you are chosen---one of the elect--it is not hubris or arrogance or pride that fills you, but instead a deep, reverent sense of awe and boundless thankfulness. Why me? I have done nothing to deserve this. Why are you and I among those whom God has chosen to be given eternal life? Why will there be some who are bound for destruction?
God does what He does. He IS . . . and He does what He pleases.
Again, with seeming paradox . . . we find that as we begin to comprehend the magnitude of His gift of grace to us, we are filled with greater and increasing love for those still struggling under the burden of ignorance and sin. We do not know who is to be also saved at the end, and so, we are (super)naturally inspired to teach, preach, exhort, evangelize . . . succor, serve, heal and shine the light of Spirit granted us in the darkness of the world . . . to go and "make disciples" of all who would heed the call. We are given the opportunity to witness and be the Lord's mouth and hands and mind and heart, as He works through us, to share in the experience of the Shepard while He searches out, finds . . . and retrieves His lost sheep.
Now here is something that starts to happen--continuing on in the walk with the Master . . . as the Holy Spirit, step by step . . . progressively instructs and changes our mind (which then changes our heart)--He uncovers hidden layers of our sin nature, exposing them to us, and our conscience is stung . . . so that a desire starts to form to want to not act inwardly in a way that is contrary to the Spirit of love.
For instance, for most of us, whether we are quick enough to observe it within ourselves or not, there is a reflexive tendency to look at others . . . and despise them--feel superior to them and judge them in some way. It happens fast and occurs in the dark recesses of our consciousness, but the Spirit will bring it up for you to see how you do it, despite your likely propensity to think you are a kind or non-judgmental person.
It is on display and in action in public places, the grocery store, the post office, the market, at an event . . . .
You see a worker guy, dirty, red eyes . . . with crude language . . . buying beer and/or cigarettes . . . . Quickly, it flashes within, "what a bum, what a lout" . . . . Or you see a group of rowdy teenagers, laughing, goofing off and it flashes, "kids nowadays! . . . lazy, disrespectful, probably do drugs . . . tsk, tsk" . . . . Or, you see the snob pull up in their convertible Porsche next to you at the stoplight, "haughty, prideful, don't know God" . . . Or, you see "gangsta"-looking fellows, pants hanging down, hoodies, bandanna's, sneering . . . and you think, "criminals, foul, violent" . . . . Or, you see the obese lady with stains on her stretched polyester, looking dumb, buying snacks and junk food, oblivious . . . with her several dirty little bratty urchin children, "probably on welfare, bilking the system, should be sterilized" . . . . Or, you see the beautiful woman, dressed to kill, perfectly quaffed, an "ice queen" . . . "stuck-up, no doubt, materialistic, vain" . . . .Or, there is the homeless bum, drunk, filthy, babbling, cussing . . . . Or, there is some guy, obviously high on drugs--a drug addict who probably steals and cheats to feed his addiction . . . .
Now its not like each of these statements, words run through your mind each time . . . . Rather, it is like there is a panel in your mind, deeper down, with buttons on sections . . . each section is a basic stereotype you hold and when you see the person, you just push the button and it's like "yep, there's that kind" . . . "yep, she/he is this kind" . . . .
A major part of changing your mind so that you one day get to the place where these kinds of judgments and condescension are NOT your first reflex, but instead love and mercy is the first response . . . is simply in recognizing and admitting to yourself that you do this . . . constantly . . . . But you can't, of your own will and power change the fact that you do. The love of God is what you require, and it is not of you--it is not something you can do. But the Spirit can and WILL continue to change your heart and mind as the mind of Christ progressively overtakes and pushes out your sin nature, and with HIS love, which is perfect, is how you will respond.
What I do, in the meantime . . . is first, to remember that each person I see, regardless of their present or apparent state of being . . . is a creature of God--someone HE created and loves, whether I do or not. How dare I judge or malign in my mind . . . one of God's creatures!
Also, even as I might be judging them correctly or wrongly, I think, "That, but for the GRACE of God . . . could be ME!" Why am I provided a home, food to eat, a family . . . a desire for God . . . and having chosen and been chosen to be saved? What have I ever done to deserve that?"
Nothing! None of us deserve anything but damnation, born sinners, with natural, fallen minds which hate God and crucified Christ!
The thankfulness which rebounds from this awareness instantly pulls in my tendency to knee-jerk judge, and I am left filled with gratitude and an outpouring of love and mercy, not wanting ANY one to suffer . . . to miss God . . . to not be saved and know the peace and joy of His Spiritual presence!
I'll call it "the ol' switcheroo" . . . where, in that first flash of a moment, where . . . I see someone in traffic . . . someone in the 7-11 . . . someone on TV . . . even someone's comments on the internet . . . I hurry quick, catch myself with that outgoing judgment and condemnation . . . remember that I am looking at one of God's creatures, who He sustains like me with breath and life . . . and if I think that I can genuinely even see that they are "messed up" in some way (ie., arrogant, prideful, vain, mean, addicted, drunk, depressed, rebellious etc.) I fast recall that it is only because OF GOD'S GRACE that that is not me at this moment . . . but not because I am in any way, of myself, any "better" of a person . . . or "further along" . . . . And I remember, that regardless of any progress the Spirit has made with me . . . I am still far, far away from the person God will ultimately have me be . . . and so, in any case, there is NO reason to feel justified in hating, or looking down on, or feeling superior to . . . ANYONE else, ever!
I have found . . . that the more I practice this remembrance and God-focused presence of mind (versus person-focused presence of mind) . . . the faster and surer I am able to observe others . . . with the love of Christ, with the mind of Christ, coming--not from me, but through me, so that it is HE who is able to love these others, not me (who can't and won't).
And it is not superficial, praise God! It is real, genuine empathy, kindness . . . love . . . that He works through me, sent out, to bless others, if, with nothing else, at least, a gentle thought . . . a kind look . . . a smile . . . a prayer . . . directed their way; instead of resentment, judgment and condemnation.
And included in my prayers, is the prayer to have more of this capacity . . . . I make it a regular part of praying, asking to have this love of fellow, love of the others, love of enemies, love of God and His creatures, some of whom (and I don't know which) are His very Children, and with whom I expect to be in company with, glorifying the Father in Heaven . . . .