“If I were in charge of the world,” says Lucy to good ol’ Charlie Brown, “I’d change everything!” Charlie, looking a bit puzzled, says, “That wouldn’t be easy. Where would you start?” “I’d start with you!” says Lucy. Changing the world usually means changing other people, whipping them into shape, making them conform to your ideal.
I couldn’t help thinking of Lucy’s advice as I read some of the text and email messages that have been sent to us. I’m thinking of the parent whose daughter is married to a real loser. The mother wants to change the situation, but she can’t. Then there is the dad whose son seems to be going 180 degrees away from where he thinks he should be headed with his life, and the wife whose husband doesn’t want her to give anything to her church. Then there is the office intern whose boss insisted that he take down the Christian poster taped to the wall of his office. All of these are quite intent on changing the world, starting with someone else.
“Dear God, please change the world, starting with the people I don’t like!” All of the folks who expressed concern over a situation were loving, caring people who were sincere and honest in their desire to help someone, but all had a common theme: They were trying to do what God’s Holy Spirit alone can do. The wife cannot turn her husband into a thoughtful, sober, caring individual. The father’s son has long since slipped out of his grasp, and the young intern can’t change the opinions of his boss.
“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Another way of putting the request might have been, “I’ve given up on getting my brother to see things my way; now, Lord, please apply some pressure so I can get things my way just the same.”
Jesus reproved the individual who wanted him to intercede on behalf of the one who didn’t get his fair share of the inheritance and in doing so Jesus taught a very important lesson. There are times when only God can change the hearts of people, and helping him out with our nagging, coaxing and cajoling may only make God’s work more difficult.
I’m thinking of the dad whose son-in-law really annoyed him with his drinking and occasional drug use. Not only was the father concerned for the young man he was also concerned for his daughter and even more concerned for the little children who were part of that home. But instead of alienating the individual, he prayed for him and quietly awaited the answer.
It finally came, but not as he expected. As the dad took the two small children for a walk, he began thinking, “These kids are going to become just like me, and I don’t want that.” He changed, and he changed plenty. He began a relationship with God and led his family in finding a home church. Almost every day he calls his father-in-law for counsel or advice, and the two, who could have been bitter enemies, are now the best of friends.
If you are struggling with an individual who could be described as “irregular,” or even something stronger, be patient. Pray, and await God’s answer–in His time and in His way. Perhaps you can help the most by loving the person who annoys you with the expectancy that God will change that person.
As problem solvers, we are intent on making other people right by whipping them into conformity with our ideals. But it just doesn’t work. When a person is in Christ, he becomes a new person; that’s God’s plan and God’s psychiatry.
Resource Reading: Luke 6:37-42
Text: Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Luke 12:13-14
GUIDELINES with Harold Sala – June 21, 2017