Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Am I Dead Yet?

Dear Friends,

Every so often I'll get in the mail an envelope the size and shape of an invitation. The only thing on the envelope, other than my name and address, are these words printed in elegant script on the lower left hand corner:

Free Cremation Offer ~ Details Inside 

I've never read the details. I’m always too scared to open the envelope. Why am I being offered free cremation services? I feel okay, but their offer makes me suspicious because I've been wrong about my health before. Do they know something about my current state of being that I'm in denial about? I'm fearful they could be right. But then again, if I was in immediate need of their cremation services, wouldn't a loved one be telling me that I was starting to stink?

I don't want what I'm about to say to sound harsh, so let me put this in Biblical language. Sometimes one of the most loving things a person can do for you is to tell you when thou doest stinketh. Because even us living believers can become a little odoriferous when we’ve stepped off the path of righteousness. When we mess up and something in our life starts to stink, we may need to hear what scripture calls a “fitly spoken word.” Only an emotional masochist would actually enjoy hearing criticism about themselves, but a wise man or woman welcomes a word that gives them an opportunity for a needed correction. King Solomon said it like this: "Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry."  (Proverbs 25:11-12 NLT)

Solomon likens valid criticism to a precious gift that is of great value to one who listens. But truly sometimes this is a gift that's more difficult to give than to receive. Yes, he or she did indeed do something that stinketh. And we can err in two directions.  We can lash out in an anger that either immediately closes the spirit of the person we are trying to reach or escalates the issue into a hurtful argument. Or we can err by turning away, getting quiet, and withdrawing. Our irritation – frustration – annoyance – anger is carefully packed away into that secret place where we have always stuffed our anger and hurts. But in that emotional cesspool, those repressed feelings always seem to bubble back up to the surface and become "passive-aggressive anger." And when a resentful, negative bitterness becomes hooked into our soul, we become sickened spiritually.
Speak the truth in love...Eph 4:15

Paul writes that mature believers should “speak the truth in love to each other in order that they may grow in every way more and more like Christ.” (Eph 4:15) When a loved one’s behavior begins to stink, we need to be truthful and tell them that. And we also need to put a bow on it. We need to gift-wrap our words in such a loving, Christ-like manner that they receive our fitly spoken words as the precious gift that they are. When truth is told and received in love, than both giver and receiver grow in every way more and more like Christ. 

Let our prayer today be that our loved ones always lovingly tell us when our behavior doest stinketh.