If you want to know what you truly believe, watch your behavior. Our behavior aligns with and reveals our deepest beliefs. Trying to get people to change their behavior without changing their belief system is an uphill battle. Trying to change other people is a losing battle. It’s hard enough trying to change ourselves; why do we try to change others?
How much frustration do you have with yourself and with the people around you because you don’t see change? Why is change necessary in order to love and to accept yourself and the people around you? Do you lack grace? Jesus loves and accepts us the way we are. He also invites us into a lifelong process of following Him in ways that lead to transformation into His likeness.
Imagine that you just got back from a trip this past week. You visited with people in a variety of places, accumulating new experiences. As you start unpacking your behaviors in your belief bag, what’s inside? When did your behaviors display your love for God and for His people around you? When did your behavior display your sense of entitlement to what you wanted or felt that you deserved at the time? When did you set aside your preferences to live in others’ preferences for the sake of the gospel? When you collided with yourself and with others, which beliefs contributed to your unresolved conflicts? Which of your behaviors and beliefs are keepsakes, and which ones need transformed or kicked to the curb?
I had a good friend challenge me this week to unpack and examine my behavior and my controlling beliefs. In the process, he discovered that I do not shrink back from loving people because of fear. I do not believe that being close to people is dangerous. That’s why I don’t wear masks or practice social distancing. While I spend a good deal of time teaching people about developing and enforcing healthy boundaries, I try to not put distance between myself and the people God’s Spirit leads me to love. Howard Hendricks always used to say, “You can impress people from a distance, but you impact people up close.”
I don’t believe that the government, the church, or our culture has the right to dictate my rhythms. God’s eternal Word and God’s Spirit have operating power to dictate my heart and my behavior. The Lord has been reshaping my beliefs and my behavior for years. That’s why I live counterculturally. I try to look at people and love people in ways that I learned by following Jesus’ words and Jesus’ ways. It doesn’t make sense to people, but I’m not trying to please them. I’m trying to live differently for Christ for the benefit of those who don’t yet know or follow Him. The apostle Paul put it this way: “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser! No, I am trying to please God. If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10).
In a world filled with anxiety and uncertainty, I’m surrounded by people who live in fear of bad things happening. I’m grieved as I watch people become increasing distant from one another. I watch people being reformed by the messages they daily receive in the news and through social media. I watch people abuse power for personal gain. And as I watch the church adopt the culture’s practices, I see it divide over distancing practices.
I belief this life is very short. We’re here today and gone tomorrow. What we do for Christ in this part of life is what matters. I want to encourage you to lean into your God-calling. J.B. Phillips once translated Romans 12 saying, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” My dad paraphrased this text saying, “Don’t let the church squeeze you into its mold.” What the world and the church need is people who live and love wholeheartedly for Christ. My prayer is that our behaviors express our beliefs in ways that spur one another on to love and good deeds. Since God is always with us, we don’t have to live in fear. And when He comes to take us home, we’ll be remembered by what we did, not by what we intended to do or did not do.
Who needs some encouragement? Be an encourager.
Who is lonely? Invest your time with them.
Who lost their job? Offer them help.
Who stopped going to church? Be the church to them.