As I walked my usual morning route, I could not help but notice by the appearance of my neighborhood, how many of my neighbors do not seem to value caring for their lawn and garden. My father and grandfather taught me the importance of mowing the lawn weekly, caring for the flowerbeds, removing weeds, sweeping, raking, etc. They showed me that there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from keeping your home and your property looking good.
While navigating past a heaping mess and nearly slipping on the wet lawn clippings a few times, I reminded myself that I need to keep my attention off of my neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. My first agenda should never be to try to make a person manage their lawn care better and I should not rush to judgment as I’m passing by the unkept property.
This reminded me of how we are in life at times with our “neighbors.” Remember, the Bible tells us that everyone is our neighbor. And we are to love everyone. Yet we spend a lot less time loving, and a lot more time focused on our neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. We look at our brothers and sisters in Christ and point out their flaws. We even look to those who have not yet come to know Jesus and point out their flaws too. It is easy to mention the overgrowth of weeds that has infiltrated someone’s life. We want to make every person our project. Then we put ourselves in charge of the “project” because we have such high opinions of ourselves and believe we have the true answer to make the person better. Sadly, we do this so regularly that we miss what needs addressed in our own lives. Plus, we look like a hypocritical proud Pharisee along the way.
Today, as you look to your brothers and sisters, and as you engage with “outsiders,” be reminded again of our true calling. We are to love God and love others. As my grandma would say, “Mind your own plate.” If we each would spend more time focused on our own shortcomings and more time asking God to pour out His grace upon us and allow Him to move in us and through us—if we would simply love, with no strings attached—the overgrowth of weeds would slowly change as His love and grace transforms. Imagine if we recognized our own shortcomings. Imagine if we saw each person as God sees them. Mind your own plate.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 [CSB]
At times we slip up and end up having to face the music. I would say it is usually not fun; however, it is a part of life. When you make a mistake, make the wrong decision, go against the rules, etc., there are consequences. This morning my daughter didn’t want to school, because she knew she would have to face the consequences of forgetting her homework at school. She understood she deserved the punishment for missing her homework, but she didn’t want to face the hardship of the punishment.
I have taken notice to a lot of parents who try to keep their children from punishment and discipline. I use the word “discipline” also because punishment is given to those for justice of wrongdoing, but discipline is training that will help correct and perfect a person. I have heard a parent say, “Well I feel bad for him.” It is okay to empathize about the situation, because we have all had to undergo consequences; however, we cannot try to teach them to avoid the consequences. We cannot tell them ways to get around facing the music.
In the Bible, we have a lot of promises of blessing and of love. We can read some verses standing alone and feel like we are basking in the love of the Father and the world is ours. But if the Bible is read closely, there is another side that people like to leave out of the equation. There is punishment and discipline in life. There are consequences. Our consequence for sin is separation from God. We have redemption through the blood of Christ; however, it doesn’t give us a free pass to go on sinning, nor does it change the fact that there are consequences for our actions. We are not perfect either, and so we need discipline to help make us a better person.
Today, maybe you have some consequences that you need to face for your actions. Perhaps you have been putting off being honest because you do not want to face what comes next. Or maybe you are a parent and you try to shield your child from facing punishment. Please know that if you “protect” your child from punishment, then you are saying that their actions are okay. You are teaching the child that they do not deserve the punishment.
My daughter went to school today without her homework. She will be stuck serving time instead of enjoying recess. It will help her to understand that she needs to remember to do her homework. We all make mistakes and misjudgments; we all face the consequences. Nonetheless, if you are honest about your shortcomings and you face the music, you experience personal growth and you become a better person. You may not see it at first, but understand that God loves you and He wants the very best for you.
“For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
– Hebrews 12:10-11 [NASB]
Like everyone, Peter made a heap of mistakes while following Christ. The denial of Christ was something he refused to accept would happen; however, he was left weeping afterward, knowing the depth of his failure. Even so, Peter did not sink down and allow this failure to stop him from pressing forward with the Great Commission Jesus left with the disciples. In the first chapter of Acts we are able to see that Peter got right back up on the horse and began to lead as was his purpose.
In Acts 1:15-26, Peter stood before the remaining Twelve and proposed the need to fill the position of Judas. This concept was not something he devised from his own thinking, but rather, he knew that the vacant spot must be replaced for the Scripture to be fulfilled. He didn’t allow his failures from the past to stand in the way from the plan God had for his life.
I believe that this example of Peter and his willingness to answer the call is something that we should all model in life. Like Peter, we all will make mistakes and be undeserving of the grace we receive from God. Nonetheless, we cannot allow our imperfections to thwart the plan that God has for our lives. By His grace and mercy we are able to stand no longer condemned. Peter constantly reminds me of the need to press forward and not allow anything, including our shortcomings, get in the way of God’s plan.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:12-14 [NIV]