Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Same Street, Different Houses

                As a dog walker I get to walk down many different streets in various towns and cities. I also get to go inside a lot of these houses. Some of the houses are big, some are small, some have blinds and curtains in the windows and some of them are wide open and you can see right into the heart of the home. The other day as I was walking along with one of our dogs, I started to notice differences about each house that I had not noticed before.  I thought about how each one represented the family living on the inside of it. Each home, though similar in style and build, and frame, in the heart of the home each one was unique to the people living in it. Each home was an expression of the individual who owned it.

                One of my struggles as a Christian has been in my conflicts with others. I struggle with their resistance to Christ, I struggle with the way they think about things, the way they do things, and how so many are unwilling to accept the truth of His Word. I see it so clearly, why can’t they? But, just like our homes, each one is different, each one is unique to who we are and even though we may have similarities, each one of us is unique and special in our own way.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:3-5 ESV
                My husband and I are not good at communicating. It is, in fact, one of the areas of conflict that I struggle with the most. He thinks he is explaining how to do something clearly and precisely, but all I hear is white noise. It is like he is speaking a foreign language and I am lost in the translation of his thinking. He gets frustrated with me and does not understand why I am not listening to what he is saying. I am listening to what he is saying; it is just not making any sense to me. I usually end up with a response that goes something like this, “I am listening-you are just not making any sense.” (You can guess where that conversation usually leads!) What we fail to see however, is that we are two different people and we think very differently. Our failure to recognize and understand these differences causes more conflict than it should.
                Most of our conflicts in this life come from our failure to recognize, understand and accept the differences that we all have. We were not created the same, nor do any of us have the same experiences, or the same thoughts. We do not think the same, talk the same, act the same or respond the same to any situation in life. We are different houses, living together on the same street. We think everyone should think like us, behave like us, and talk like us. I have had many women tell me they wish their husbands would talk to them more about what is going on inside their heads. They push their husbands to talk, and what they usually get out of that is conflict. They fail to recognize that their husbands are different people, who probably are not thinking about anything at all. They, themselves, are having a thousand emotions run through their thoughts about some event that just took place, but their husbands have processed it, filed it and forgotten it. We are different houses, living on the same block.
                Paul teaches us this lesson about recognizing our differences with a humbling commandment for us all. He tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should. (vs. 3) As Christians we are probably patting ourselves on the back right now because none of us ever think more highly of ourselves- we always put others first. But let’s not get to hasty in our opinions of ourselves, as Paul gently reminds us. We think more highly of ourselves when we fail to recognize that we do not think alike, talk alike, act alike or respond to life the same way. Your way of thinking, your way of doing things, your attitude, and your conversation in this world might be right and righteous, but that does not make you any better than your neighbor, or anyone else on the block.
                We might have similar houses, but if I walked into your home it would be different than mine. Your house might be made of brick, and my house might be made of steel, but when a hurricane comes we both could lose our roofs. So don’t get yourself too puffed up just yet. We must exercise self control and recognize that the person living next to us does not have the same house as we do. They may not understand what you are saying or they may think differently than you. It is not our place to judge them in the sense of putting our thoughts above their thoughts; instead we are to recognize the differences and adjust our approach, showing sound judgment towards them.
                Remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:20? He told us that “to the Jews he became as a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that {he} might win those under the law.” Paul did not change his beliefs, nor compromise his walk before the Lord, but he did recognize that everyone was different and met each person at their level. He recognized that they each person had a different house so he adjusted the way he knocked on their door.
                As Christians, we all belong to the same body. Just like these homes that I walk past day after day are on the same street, in the same subdivision, in the same city, they still have an individuality of their own. Each one is an expression of who the people are living on the inside. We will continue to find ourselves in conflicts, in broken relationships and lonely fellowship if we do not begin to recognize the differences we all have. I am not saying that we should accept and recognize sinful behaviors, or that we should compromise the Word of God, what I am saying is that we need to adjust the way we approach people and see them for who they are, empty houses in need of a Savior.

                God has not given us all the same gifts either. We might have similar gifts, but how He chooses to use our gifts through us will be different. We have to stop putting ourselves and God in a box. God will use each one of us differently, according to the measure of faith that He has assigned to each one of us. We are individuals placed together in the same body, on the same street, in the same subdivision, living together in the same city. If we do not take the time to recognize the differences and allow God to change the way we approach one another we are going to end up with nothing but empty houses lined up on a desolate street. Amen.