I attended a shower for a couple soon-to-be-married. Guests enjoyed the beauty of the wrapped gifts coming in. We talked about current day events and reminisced about that time in our lives around the various tables. Then, it was time to watch the couple open gifts. Lovely, practical items for setting up a new home were opened one after another.
All of a sudden, the bride-to-be had a noticeable problem. The beautiful, perhaps even the most beautiful of all, sparkly iridescent wide white ribbon used for the bow, was sticking to her layered tulle skirt. The more she tried to unattach it, the more places it reattached. While I couldn’t see them from a distance, I’m positive the skirt wore the markings of multiple snags. I was disappointed for her that her skirt was likely ruined.
Then I watched as the mom cut the ribbon from the daughter’s skirt only for it to get caught in the lace of the mother’s dress. The beauty of that ribbon was short lived because of the damage it inflicted.
Satan is a nefarious marketer. He can package damaging material in a lovely gift wrapped box with ribbon around it that destroys a relationship, your ability to trust, or misinforms your identity because it is seen through a warped lens. Sometimes, what looks to be the most advantageous option turns out to be exactly the opposite.
Let’s look at a few examples. How about that shiny new car that we deserve because we achieved a life-long goal? The perceived reward can be the status or the initial feel-good moment. The problem is, the paint and new car smell fade…often more quickly than we ever imagined. Of course, even more problematic than evaporating beauty, is the fact that there is almost always a car payment required to drive that shiny new vehicle that we can’t truly afford. The payment remains the same even though the car is aging.
What about trying a new experience just for the novelty or excitement? Those experiments can lead to addiction or even death in some cases. All in the pursuit of trying something daring or not disappointing our peers at the expense of exclusion. The perceived benefit is continuing to feel like you belong and are accepted.
Sometimes, the perceived benefit is safety. In an attempt to be safe and enjoy the feeling of security, we begin to wall ourselves off from individuals that make us uncomfortable. Discernment is vital here. Healthy boundaries are necessary, however, we can fall into the trap of being deceived. Boundaries established out of selfish ambition and gain will eventually isolate us. The perceived benefit of safety comes at a cost of loneliness and vulnerability because of a lack of quality relationships. Isolated believers become easy prey for the enemy.
Vows and agreements are often made with the auspices of perceived benefits. The seemingly beneficial aspect is defining our character and integrity. Vows made with judgement attached create space for Satan to attack us as do agreements to believe any lie or partial truth that is contrary to God’s view.
Another perceived benefit can come in the guise of deciding our values and integrity. Instead of choosing between right and wrong for ourselves, we judge another’s decision(s) and behavior(s). We think we are establishing lines we don’t want to cross. Truth is, if that was all we were doing, setting personal boundaries and safeguards is a proactive way of navigating life. The problem enters when we allow judgement in our heart and mind against another.
We are warned against judgement in Matthew 7:1-5. It is easy to identify another’s faults especially when it is a subject we are all too familiar with because it has also been a struggle for us. Negative blame shifting or finger pointing is unproductive and even damaging, but there is a healing component present when we first do our own soul searching and inner work. That process permits us to come alongside with empathy, understanding, encouragement, and hope for the one that has not yet overcome the sinful behavior they are wrestling down.
Just like we can pollute a room or situation with negativity, we can share the fruit of the Spirit. Have you ever noticed that laughter is contagious? Joy attached to you can be shared with another. Love, hope, peace, gentleness and on down the list can permeate any difficult situation and change the atmosphere for the better. As Christians, we carry the Light of the World wherever we go because He lives in us. The fruit of the Spirit can be appreciated for its beauty in its fullness without any concern of damage for having been in its presence…in His Presence.
We can come alongside and encourage others around us. It is even possible for us to stand in Jesus’ authority and help disentangle them from damaging circumstances. We simply need to be authentic and reflective, dealing first with our own log before attempting to address someone else’s speck. Being aware, honest, contrite, and repentant is the best prescription to prevent becoming entangled ourselves.
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