Have you ever sat at a gathering and had someone offer you food that didn't appeal to you? Maybe they offered you a steak and the thought of indulging in more red meat made your stomach turn in protest. For some time now you haven’t been feeling well and you suspect your excessive meat intake is taking its toll. You may have even scheduled an appointment with a specialist to try and determine the cause. Due to your concerns you look somewhat disdainfully at the contents in the plate and refuse the food. Instead, you reach for a tossed salad while eyeing the desert table that looks invitingly sweet.
Following your glance, the fellow that offered you his plate turns his head and looks somewhat disapprovingly at the frosted cake that captured your attention. He then makes several attempts to convince you to give his steak a try, but you shake your head and repeatedly decline.
Beside you sits your friend who seems pleased with your response, and even somewhat smug. Due to several ugly episodes of food poisoning in the past caused by tainted meat, he has sworn it all off. He likens it to the devil, certain all meat causes mad cow disease. Now he spends a good deal of his time crusading against it and appealing to others to have it banned, his version of a health insurance policy against insanity.
As you view his response that speaks louder than words, you roll your eyes at him and say, "Good grief, don't make more of this than there is. And please, not another speech. I'm already cutting back on my meat intake, but I am not convinced I need to convert to your vegetarian club. I'm telling you, I think you are starting a cult!" But he dismisses your distress with a chuckle, thinking your concern for him is cute. And just when you are about to deliver another speech, your attention is diverted by a loud clash.
Seems the fellow that offered you the meat is quite angry and dropped the plate in front of you as if insisting that you eat. Taken aback by his persistence, and even somewhat annoyed, you then get up from the table and find a different place to sit.
Boys, you think to yourself and wonder what happened to the real men.
To your horror, he follows you with the meat and tosses it at you. And as it goes airborne and heads straight for its target, your annoyance turns into shock, but it misses its mark as you gratefully don’t freeze up and quickly duck.
"Oh my goodness," you cry aloud, "this man is trying to assault me!"
Perturbed and angered by his rude behavior, you move to another part of the room trying to put some distance between the two of you in your attempt to fend off another attack, but this only seems to fuel his anger which continues to puzzle you.
What is he doing?! you ask yourself as you sense him at your heels, his angry words ringing in your ears. You're now convinced he is deranged and there may be more to this crazy theory regarding the root of mad cow disease. And just when you are about to give him a smack in an attempt to knock some sense into him, your friend comes to your aid and throws a pie in his face.
And there you stand, eyes wide open and mouth dropped as you watch the pie hit its mark. Your shock then turns to a grin, feeling the desert was just what he deserved and needed, but the amusement of the moment is quickly lost as others join in this pathetic display. Before you know it, a full-fledged food fight breaks out. Meats, pies, salads, beverages, and even silverware are swirling around the room as the tension continues to mount. As if that wasn't enough, you catch the terrified look on your host's cat as he goes flying by.
Recognizing it has gotten way out of hand, you ask yourself, How did it come to this? Has everyone gone mad?! Sensing it is something in the air, you scan the room looking for a quick way out.
Then, to your relief, your host, who seemed to've been previously oblivious to the situation, gets up and tries to bring some order to the mounting tensions. You let out a sigh of relief as you see an end in sight, but your hopes are short-lived as you watch in disbelief the crowd quickly turn on him. In some odd way this attempt to bring order has united them in their rage. They are now rallying against him while yelling words regarding freedom of speech and other such liberties and rights. You then watch in dismay as they continue to shower their host with the remainder of the buffet.
Some scene huh?
You may be thinking, Oh Jo, that is really crazy. I mean those people are obviously insane.
But I find myself wondering how oblivious we may be to these words:
You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
At times we gather together with the wonderful treasures the Lord has given us and our past associations may blind us to the good intentions of others as they offer us the treasures from their hearts. We can even find ourselves reacting with disdain and contempt as our unhealed wounds and unresolved issues (dare we leave out borrowed knowledge) may have led to a closing of our hearts. Although we may need time and space, we don’t have to personally reject them for they are a beloved child of God. It would also serve us well to know we are not the only ones that have gone through things and have been hurt.
On the other side of the table, it can be a painful experience when we are eager to share our treasures and others don't appear to see the value in our heartfelt offering, toss it to the side, and opt for another dish. If we don't deal with it properly we can make a mess of things, festering anger and insisting on having our way. We should recognize that we are all on a progressive journey and keep our hearts before the Lord while allowing him to do the most important work.
There are generally two sides to a story and all too often we are only equipped with our side, but if we take the time to open up and honestly communicate, we will be given the view from the other side. If we go that route, let us also try to avoid making the discussion about a hurtful blame game. See, even though our neighbor plays a part and the Lord will allow our humanity to play out, we are all first and foremost responsible to Him. He is our answer and our source and the One we are first accountable to. Know the higher view is the one seen from being connected to his heart.
Try talking about how it makes you feel, owning up to your feelings instead. And as you do, you may find that you are pleasantly surprised by your neighbor’s understanding and ability to relate. We tend to feel the need to protect ourselves from others' blame when they don't consider our view and validate our challenges and pain.
And if you share your heart and hurtful accusations come, feel free to guard it for out of it flows the wellsprings of life. The enemy is called the accuser of the brethren, but we can choose to leave his darkened ways behind and move forward in Christ. When the Holy Spirit puts his finger on something in our lives, it is to bring healing in Jesus, not to condemn. Do continue to love and pray for all for this offering is a sweet fragrance unto God.
Furthermore, just like we are all parts of Jesus' body, all foods that come from Him, whether physical or spiritual, is acceptable and good. Even if we do not partake of a portion for whatever reason, we can see its significance. We shouldn't trample on another’s gift and start a crusade against it no matter how abused its been in the past. Our preferences and clubs need not be harmful, and even quite beneficial for a season as we grow up in Christ. We just need to be cautious about making them the way and leading others astray, instead of leading them to Christ.
May we also abandon our liberties centered on our cause that are not grounded in him. And as He captivates us by his love and leads us within, we will willingly abandon our rights and become his living sacrifice. As we do, we open the door for his Spirit to work through us and unite us in the strong ties of his love.
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord looks upon the heart - Proverbs