There is Wisdom in Being Peaceful (Avoid Arguments, Mind Your Own Business, Seek to Live a Quiet Life)

The Beth Moore’s women’s bible study group I’m in just continues to give and give – there is so much to be said for when you seek wisdom, and put yourself in a place where you’re likely to receive it, you will chase it as it unravels like a rolling yarn ball.  A few weeks ago, we studied the verse 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.

I’m sure we’ve all seen why this verse is important, we may have just not connected the dots (or even knew that such verse in Scripture existed).  But hands down, it is off-putting to see any person, but especially a “Christian” going against this verse in their social interactions with others.  I’ve been terribly guilty of this before, out of sheer ignorance that it was really wrong for me to be debating issues with a persuasive agenda in mind (what other agenda is there when it comes from a debate? None).

Definition of Debate1) a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward; 2) argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner

Synonyms: discussion, discourse, parley, argument, conterargument, dispute, wrangle, war of words, argumentation, disputation, dissension, disagreement, contention, conflict, negotiations, talks

There were times 2-3 years ago, that I thought I needed to debate against Catholicism, because I honestly wanted to help those dutiful believers under that religion that strays so much from biblical truth, to see how wrong some of their doctrines truly were.  There are times when debate may be necessary in cases like that, even in pointing out false or unfounded doctrine; however, the way I was personally going about this “mission” was terribly misguided and ended up hurting many people, possibly even pushing people away from what I was trying to get them to look at.

I wasn’t exactly rude (except if you count in a very pushy, arrogant way! Ie. sometimes debating itself is rude in certain circumstances), but I was too wrapped up in the debate itself to care about the effects it would have on my personal relationships with the very people I proclaimed to “care about.”

Just like how we are not supposed to argue about extra-biblical preferences or opinions such as “Should Christians Participate in Halloween?” or “Should Christians Have Christmas Trees Since They Were Used By Pagans?”  I also feel that we should be extremely cautious in treading on the ground of where another believer feels personally convicted, as per all of Romans 14, where we are constantly reminded “not to argue” about personal convictions (even over controversial topics). 

This is not to say that argument or debate has no place, but merely when it comes to certain topics that aren’t pertaining to a person’s salvation or biblical truths.  We are called to accept other people who may be “weak in faith” or may simply have differing opinions from us.  When I looked at the Greek meanings and footnotes of great authors on this chapter,

I found at the same time that we are called to accept them, we are also warned repeatedly, to not try to “persuade” them using examples or “debate,” that to accept their opinions and personal convictions was exactly that.  To just accept.  To try to even persuade them was sinning. We are free in having our personal convictions over many many non-essential topics, however we are most certainly NOT free to debate them as we see fit.

Why don’t we have the freedom to just debate over anything?  It seems clear that Paul is talking about Christians debating other Christians – there are already both saved – and debates over such trivial things can have potential to be extremely divisive at times.

We are called to pursue peace and unity within the body… having debates over non-essential issues often do more harm to keeping “unity” than they do to flourish believers’ relationships with each other. 

Romans 14 goes on to include the word “criticizing.”  When we try to persuade others from their convictions, we are in effect criticizing their current beliefs, in my opinion, the very root of it is a very prideful thing in which we are automatically assuming that we understand something better than them, and that’s why we feel a certain desire (or enjoyment from) debating on an issue.  The reality is maybe we DO understand something “better than them,” maybe our faith truly IS a little stronger so that we understand that we have more freedom to feel a certain way on a topic – however, that is why this chapter is in defense of those who have a “weaker faith.”  It is their faith at stake then, not ours, and we should be very guarded and cautious in what we choose to debate about in effort to help them grow (on their own) in their faith.

It might be enjoyable for the person who is acting in pride in thinking their debate and personal opinion is important to hear, but it is most definitely NOT enjoyable for the other party involved, who ends up feeling judged because this fellow Christian is not able to merely accept that they have a different opinion or different conviction.

The 3 main things Beth Moore was pointing out in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 were to:
1) Seek to live a quiet life

2) To mind your own business

3) To work with your own hands

These all fit in line with following Romans 14, seeking to live a quiet life requires one to be responsible – to argue and debate only when it is truly called for and needed.  This is for a very important reason and greater mission we should be aware of… Beth points out in the next verse (vs 12) that the 2 reasons Paul wanted us to focus on these 3 things in life were:

1) So that we may win the respect of outsiders, and walk properly in their presence

2) To not be dependent (financially or emotionally) on anyone – being a burden unnecessarily

People are actively watching what we do as a Christian… all the time.  Even if you think you live a responsible public life, we are also called to have greater integrity in also living a responsible private life in our own homes, otherwise, the reputation of Christ is still at stake!

I recently had a very strange experience with friend who wanted to constantly debate in public over my own personal convictions – to the point where the arguments were lasting for days, other people were taking note, picking sides, and generally getting the wrong idea of what the initial topic was supposed to be about.  It was causing some believers to feel justified in judging certain types of people, and also affecting non-Christians who were more than likely feeling judged by seeing the argument play out in the wide open environment of social media.  Nothing good seemed to be coming from it at all, never-mind the multiple miscommunications due to it being over social media and not in person, or in private.  This is not to say that we don’t have to freedom to post or have our own personal opinions, but choosing to publically debate over them (or even privately at times) is not always the best idea.

We carry the reputation of Christ, and we truly need to be careful in what we choose to publically debate about because of Paul’s warning that we need to “win the respect of outsiders.”  To think that it doesn’t matter what other people think, or how something may look to others (even online), Beth points out, is an irresponsible Christian ethic.  I have already been through this lesson many times before, and I’ve definitely had negative consequences when I reveled in my freedom to debate whatever I wanted.

Beth talked about how we can lose our perspective, make certain issues more important than maintaining healthy relationships, or lose sight of the goal of unity between believers in effort to debate our point or opinions.

Literally, some hills are just not worth dying on… and we should hold ourselves responsible for carrying the reputation of Christ.

Hope this encourages you as much as it enlightened & reminded me of those commands!  Here’s to living peaceably, a quiet life, minding my own business, and keeping perspective when it comes to debating.

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Self-Reflection & Being a Bad or Good Person

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You can feel like you’re a bad person when a lot of bad things are happening to you.  When you don’t understand why or how, when you don’t understand your feelings of anger inside, you can start to wonder if you’re really the problem or a bad person.  Self-reflection is healthy and necessary, it’s a biblical command to examine yourself and search out if there’s anything wrong you might be doing, but I believe that sometimes we can be overwhelmed with tragedy or filth, and not be able to clearly see beyond our circumstances.

I remember the first time I saw the 5th Harry Potter movie, The Order of the Phoenix, it was during a time when I had been going through a lot of pain and rejection with my family.  The year before, I had a falling out with two friends that were close, that had I trusted, that had totally betrayed me.  After a year of losing those friends and feeling judged and misunderstood, the family rejection was the nail in the coffin – I was officially “estranged,” from my own family.

When I was watching The Order of the Phoenix, I was on my honeymoon and probably in a very mild depression.  A part came up when Harry was talking to his god-father, Sirius, about how he felt with all the bad things that have happened to him, that maybe something had gone wrong inside him, and that he was changing and turning bad.  He talked about his feelings of unexplained anger and hatred, how he secretly feared he was becoming more like Voldemort (the seriously evil antagonist in the story).  Sirius said something that I’ll never forget, read the script dialogue:

Harry Potter: This connection between me and Voldemort… what if the reason for it is that I am becoming more like him? 

I just feel so angry, all the time.

What if after everything that I’ve been through, something’s gone wrong inside me? What if I’m becoming bad?

Sirius Black: I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry.

You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to.

Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us.

What matters is the part we choose to act on.

That’s who we really are.

If you’ve had horrible things happen to you, and you don’t understand why, or if you are caught up in something at this moment, and you are worried about the immense emotions you feel, maybe you need to hear these words.

It really all boils down to our choices, what we choose to do… like Sirius said, are choices are what makes us who we really are.

Lips of Kindness

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I was reminded this weekend the importance of being careful how you speak to people; having someone speak horribly to me, the wounds are still fresh and I’ve been given a sort of clarity about the situation.  When you put yourself out there, when you try to do anything worthwhile in this world, you will always receive some amount of criticism or even blind hatred & harsh judgment.  We live in a world that frankly doesn’t seem to value humanity – behind computer screens, people may believe they can speak whatever they want to another, regardless of the effects of their words on that person’s spirit.

Words are so powerful, and boy can they hurt.  Even the bible states that life and death are in the power of the tongue, and people will reap the consequences of what they say to another – for good and bad.  Whatever they are, words are not meaningless characters, they carry meaning and have the power to slash someone to ribbons. It was a beautiful reminder for me to continue in lifting others up, encouraging people, and loving people – even people who actively hate me and all that I represent.  

It made me think about the importance of speaking kindness and love into our children.  If a child isn’t regarded with respect, love, and given grace and understanding when they’re growing up, they might have a hard time understanding these things when older, and choose to berate and assault anyone who disagrees with them.

Even in those rare occurrences where a parent may lose control with their child and spew something horrible they didn’t mean, it is so important to go back to your child and amend things!  It really doesn’t matter what circumstances led to the loss of control, you must seek to “dress the wound before infection sets in,” (Dr. James Dobson).

Speak love into others… speak with lips of kindness.

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat,

known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.

These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity,

and an understanding of life that fills them with

compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.

~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Death & Judgment

I am a nerd… a geek… hopefully not completely a “dork” – call it what you will, but I truly do embrace my inner geek-goddess.  I completely mesh with my husband concerning a variety of books and movies, even tv-series.  Whatever it is that leads me to adore Harry Potter (if you didn’t read the books – yes, all of them – you’re sorely missing out!), Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, I’m thankful to be born like this. 

Growing up, my brother and I would have episodes of these movie marathons, usually Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.  We would watch them for days, relishing each part, repeating epic lines!  Geek goddess?  You have no idea….

I love the deep lessons hidden in these works of art, all kinds of life lessons, if you’re attune to them.  One of my hands down favorite lines is from Lord of the Rings when Gandalf is explaining to Frodo how to accept crisis – how to deal with things that happen in life that are devastating & unwanted.  He also explains possibly one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve ever heard on why we shouldn’t judge others. 

Frodo: It’s pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had a chance!
Gandalf:  Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. And some that died deserve life. Can you give it to them Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.