“But the one who keeps God’s word is the person in whom we see God’s mature love. This is the only way to be sure we’re in God. Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived…” I John 2:6 (The Message)
As a mother, I suffer from “guilt by association.” When my children get cavities at the dentist, I feel responsible for letting them “eat junk,” and not having them brush their teeth better. If people come over spontaneously and the house is a mess, even if the clutter isn’t mine, I feel as though I’m the one who is judged. If my children speak rudely, bicker back and forth, or hurt someone’s feelings, I feel as though I should control their actions, attitudes, and therefore the outcome.
However, God has been working with me on this particular concept for several months (years). My job is not to change people. Maybe I need to say that again for my own benefit. My job is not to change people. That’s God’s job, and only God’s job. My job is to introduce people to Him, show the best example of Him consistently to all I influence and cross paths with, but my job is not to change people.
I have to remember how God deals with me. He uses a lot of grace. More grace than I deserve. He gently and consistently writes what He wants me to change on a billboard until I look up long enough to see it. It usually takes me a few months to consider the message is for me, another few months before I realize it’s a problem I should start working on, and then the real work begins which takes much, much longer with many setbacks along the way.
When I mess up, God doesn’t deal with me harshly. He, again, gently convicts (never condemns) and gives me another chance and another chance and another chance until the issue He’s working with me on is either eradicated, implemented, or changed.
If God is that kind and graceful to me, who am I to think I should be any different with others? It doesn’t matter if the “others” are my children, extended family members, friends, or strangers at the store. Each person is God’s child, just like I am, and if God is going to treat me that kindly, it’s my job to treat them with equal grace as was given to me.
You know what I find when I do things His way? I’m more peaceful. I only have to work on changing myself. I’m freed from the “guilt by association” because God is only concerned with my reaction to what is happening around me, not with the circumstances that aren’t in my control to change.
When I think about the above examples, I cannot choose whether or not my children adhere to the advice to keep their teeth healthy, remember to pick up their clutter so our house is company ready, or chose their words carefully or talk without thinking. I can choose, though, to keep in perspective that just as I’m learning and far from perfection, my Father loves me anyway. I can focus on the good that my kids while encouraging them in their personal journey to become more like their Father too.
© Cheri Swalwell 2015