Monday, July 2, 2012

Working At Cross Purposes

Last week, there was a somewhat comical scene on the shuttle bus. There were two brothers sitting in the seat just to the right of my seat. A parent brought a snow cone machine for me to take to camp, so I asked the boys to move to another seat. That's when the fun started. The younger brother, who was sitting on the inside, decided he was going to go first. As he headed into the aisle, his lunchbox became hung up on his older brother's leg. The older brother could not move his leg because it was blocked by the younger brother's backpack. The younger brother couldn't move either, because he was hung up on the older brother's backpack. All the while, I'm standing there with the base to a snow cone machine in my hands hoping for a place to put it down quickly. As I surveyed the situation, I came up with a solution. I began to direct the brothers on what to do, but they simply tried again to get out of the seat at the same time. Of course, the results were the same. After a couple of minutes of directing them, they finally extricated themselves and moved to another seat. My comic relief for the day had come early.

As I thought about it later in the day, I realized that the problems the brothers had were a good picture of what happens so often in our lives. It can happen in the workplace, in the home, in relationships, or in churches. Sometimes it seems that we are just working at cross purposes with other people. We think we know what needs to be accomplished and how it needs to be done, but we just can't seem to get the other folks to see things the same way we do. We also can't see past our narrow perspective. Fortunately, the brothers on the bus didn't do what we so often do. They didn't get mad at each other, start hitting each other or flinging cross words. Neither of them walked away from the other and refused to sit with him. The rest of the week they got along great with each other. Unfortunately, we often do those very things, even in the church.

The brothers just needed someone to direct them and tell them what to do. Of course, they also needed to listen to the directions, or the results would have the same old same old. We have One who has given us directions to follow when our purposes and those of others end up getting tangled. Jesus gave us a few things to keep in mind that I believe will help us keep peace at the very least, and will allow us to do what is really important. Our Master told us to love one another as he loves us, to lay down our lives for others. That may include giving up our plans and trying to see another's perspective. We are told to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness first. I've found that tends to radically change my way of looking at things. We are called to consider others better than ourselves, and to have the same humble, sacrificial attitude that Jesus had. Paul also tells us that what really counts is faith working itself out in love.

An attitude of sacrificial love will enable us to work together with others to solve problems that come up. I believe that this can work in every area of our day-to-day. I especially believe that it is a mandate for the church. Those outside the church don't have the same command or motivation to love, but those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus must seek to settle differences and try to work together for the good of the Kingdom. To do otherwise is to give the world a reason to wonder if we really belong to Christ.

God help us to submit our purposes to our King, for his glory

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