I no longer count my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. ... I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. -- Philippians 3:9b,12-14 (NLT)
Paul has just told the community of Philippi that as regards the law, he has never been at fault. So why does he say that he is still not all that he should be?
I think the reason is that Christ Jesus calls us to a higher law: the law of love. I get what Paul is writing about here. Personally, I have no problem not murdering someone, or committing adultery against my husband, or stealing someone's property. These are no-brainers for me. They are clear transgressions. What I do still have trouble with, however, are all the little ways in which I transgress against my neighbor.
At the moment, I am dealing with my propensity to complain about my neighbor to other people.
Jesus said that when you have a grievance against a brother or sister, go and talk directly to them about it. He didn't say, Vent about it to someone else!
Unfortunately, that is what I tend to do -- way too often. And now, this time, I think I have hurt a neighbor because I chose not to curb my tongue. Was it worth it? Of course not. I hurt someone. And, I broke the trust this person placed in me. This person may not only not trust me again, but he may be less willing to trust other people in the future.
So, what do I do about it? Well, the world's advice might be: don't worry about it; this too will pass; pretend like it didn't even happen. Or, just sever ties completely; count this friend as a loss, and move on. But, what does God require me to do?
Apologize. Try to stay connected to the one you have hurt.
Really? Can't I just tell you, God, how sorry I am, and leave it at that?
No. I must tell this person what I have done, and tell them how sorry I am.
But what if this person wants nothing to do with me?
That is between him and God; this is between me and God.
Man! God's refining fire is tough. Almost physically painful. Certainly, mentally painful. But a measure of comfort comes in the form of another reading. Today, I read in "Jean Gerson's Early Works," (part of the series "The Classics of Western Spirituality") about other people who have experienced what I am experiencing. Gerson writes in "The Mountain of Contemplation" about what he calls, "humble penitence":
"... how hard it is to get rid of [worldly faults] is much better understood by those who try than by those who do not care and make no effort. So it is with the bird who does not realize it is trapped until it tries to get away.
This comparison helps explain the complaints of those who have recently found the desire to love God, for they feel more pain and suffering than they did before.... Thus it is necessary that the true God of love, our Savior Jesus Christ, attracts to himself the soul he wants to teach the art of good love." (pg. 84)
"And although one desires that tribulation should cease, the pain that one now feels, as the Apostle says (2 Cor. 4:17), nevertheless brings forth an undeniable fruit." (pg. 87)
And so I learn that the result of this pain may be that I will learn to love my neighbor better. That is a very good thing. For that, I am grateful. And, I hope, dear Lord, that this is true, for everyone's sake.
Thank you, God, for bringing me to a place of awareness, painful though this is sometimes. Awareness of you, I know, also brings great joy and peace. I hope I can learn your way of greater love, and "be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be." Love always, Pam.