I know, I know, you want to leave it all behind and move on already!! But there were lessons learned that should not be forgotten simply because we don’t like the circumstances they were wrapped in.
I’ll share a few insights I’ve gained, and then I’d love to hear yours!
“But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church” (1 Corinthians 8:1 NLT)
I don’t need to tell you that there were an awful lot of major headlines this year, affecting a vast array of the population in one way or another. News distressed every segment of society, including animal lovers, sports fanatics, entertainment followers, healthcare providers, and political armchair strategists.
There was a race to know not only the latest headline, but the background story behind it beginning to end. This wasn’t just to know for the sake of knowledge itself, it was to feel some sort of advantage over those who didn’t yet have all of the facts.
It was a competition to not only be the first to know, but to know the most! We wanted to feel important, while losing sight of building others up.
Was God impressed with our knowledge? I daresay He was not.
For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.1 John 2:16
“What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45).
I learned a great deal about the human heart this year. Storms stirred up the muck that had been hidden deep, and it certainly came to the surface in a lot of people (including myself)!
The sludge of arrogant anger was evident everywhere we looked, believers and non-believers alike. Experts in certain fields were ridiculed by folks who searched out questionable sources that would support their competing theories. Those who disagreed were attacked as ignorant fools, and were presented with “facts” to set them straight. Where was the love?
Public grieving for lives lost to racial violence was met with disdain and belittling comments, made by Christians and non-Christians alike. “If you think that’s bad, what about ________________??” Thanks for the thought, but no thanks. Any one of those losses could have been my son. It’s personal to me. Where was the love?
Politics, yet again, caused the end of a great number of relationships, believer and non-believer alike. People in opposing camps weren’t willing to listen to one another to gain understanding, but instead attacked one another’s character and integrity. “How could you vote for a party that __________________?? You must be a horrible person!! You don’t care at all about _________________!! Your party is evil!” In the vast majority of cases, this simply isn’t true. My biggest issue may be tenth on your list, and vice versa. It’s personal to me. Where was the love?
What has our behavior this year communicated to the world about the God we say we serve? I know that if I was not already a follower of Christ, I certainly would be less inclined to investigate him after seeing how Christians have treated others over the past year. Who on earth would want more of that??
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.1 Corinthians 13:4-6 ESV
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
Secret motives . . . often hidden even from ourselves. But God knows.
God knows exactly how deceitful and wicked our hearts are. He knows how dark and sludgy it is in the deepest places we don’t see. And sometimes those around us can see that nastiness when it seeps out of our mouths (or keyboards).
I am so thankful that God didn’t turn his back on me because of my evil inclinations! Instead, He chose to save me from the darkness. His mercy, grace and kindness triumphed over judgment and deserved condemnation.
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
If God chose to be compassionate toward me in my wicked ways, shouldn’t I be passing that compassion on to others, no matter how “worthy” they may seem? From the greatest to the least, each person is loved by God whether or not they accept his gift of salvation. “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).
Not only has God saved believers from eternal punishment, He has saved us for something now and something later. First the now:
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10).
What good things has God planned for you to do in the coming year? How can you be a living example of his love and grace to the world around you?
And the later:
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
We can live through these messy, chaotic days with our hearts filled with hope.
How does the promise of an eternal inheritance affect your view of your current situation?
Looking ahead to 2021, may believers everywhere choose love over pride, love over hate, and love over condemnation.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.1 John 4:7-12
What insights have you gained throughout 2020? Please share in the comments below!