Friday, September 12, 2014

Walk in Blessing

image used under Public Domain license, photo obtained from pixabay
Acts 10:34 (KJV)  Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

John 5:19 (KJV)  Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. 

1 John 2:6 (KJV)  He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

Romans 12:2 (KJV)  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Those verses highlight a real truth.  God doesn't favor certain people, nor does He exclude some from His favor.  All are free to accept His Grace and salvation.  It's clear to most Christians that the ideal is to be Christ-like.  He took His lead from the Father.  We need to take our lead from Him and be transformed.  How we walk with God should make a difference.  There are a couple of situations that got me thinking about that recently.  One of them splashed all over the news.

We're all familiar with the Ray Rice situation, by now.  There's a lot to that case that illustrates how to not live in the verses we started with.  Let's take a look.

The case began with Revel casino security camera footage showing Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator.  Before that, he had a squeaky clean public image.  Many suspect that had something to do with his originally getting only a two game suspension, making NFL Commissioner Goodell a respecter of persons.  But there's more to that.

Goodell's two game suspension of Ray came along with hints that the league officials had seen more evidence than was made public.  One would assume it was the recently released footage of the events inside the elevator.  The NFL says they never had access to that footage.  Law enforcement says the video was sent to the NFL in April.  So, what was the extra evidence the public never saw?

After much public outcry, the NFL changed it's punishment for domestic violence to a 6+ game suspension for a first offense, permanent ban from pro football for further violations.  Immediately, Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers was arrested for domestic violence.  If proven guilty, he's looking at a 6 game to indefinite suspension, besides any criminal punishment.  From all reports, McDonald, if proven guilty, will get a possibly lighter NFL penalty for worse circumstances.  There was the video that was released of the actual abuse in the elevator by Ray Rice.  There's no video of McDonald.  And there was more public outcry because Rice's two game suspension had never been changed to match the new penalties.

The NFL's response to the released video was to indefinitely ban Ray Rice from the league.  It appears the NFL recognizes that they messed up badly with the two game suspension and are trying to save face and Commissioner Goodell's job.  I'm not suggesting that a much harsher penalty isn't in order.  But why in a way that appears more to appease public outcry than dealing with the nature of the offense?

Despite all the emotion wrapped around all this, there are some things we need to remember.  The case was tried in New Jersey, a state not necessarily known for going easy on those convicted, particularly celebrities.  And the prosecutor went for counseling for the couple, rather than a criminal record for Rice.  That would seem to indicate that there probably were no prior similar incidents and counseling was likely to avoid any future incidents.  Besides that, Janay had no qualms about still marrying Ray.  And she has been fully supportive of him.  Which would also indicate this might be a one time incident, perhaps fueled by emotion and alcohol.

Then there's Dr. Phil suggesting that, like some abuse victims, Janay might be suffering from something like "Stockholm Syndrome", identifying with her abuser.  Dr Phil does have a Phd in psychology, so he is a doctor.  But he is no longer licensed to practice psychology anywhere in the US.  So, what we have is strictly an opinion given without ever meeting with the couple.  It will help with his ratings, but does nothing to move the couple forward in healing their relationship.  Yes, Janay may have some of the issues of victim identifying with the abuser.  But she may not.  We need professional insight based on direct contact to determine that.  There's a saying about opinions that I'm sure many reading this will recognize just by my saying that.

The circumstances that Ray and Janay now find themselves in punish both harshly for what should be only his penalty.  And, if it really is only a one time incident, dealing with present circumstances doesn't help heal the emotions and relationship.  What makes me wonder is that I'm not certain Ray would have been treated so harshly if he had not been a public figure.  Or, more to the point, did his clean reputation have something to do with it?  Is the outcry because he did something wrong or because he went against expectations?  Certainly there have been celebrities who were known for bad behavior and who didn't get the same kind of negative response.  How much is due to the public being respecters of persons?

At any rate, I'm praying for Ray and Janay, that God would turn this all around and they have a spectacular relationship.  And that Ray would continue his newly made connection with the House of Ruth, which helps battered women.  A positive result from all of this is what Jesus would go for.  So should we.

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There's another, more personal example of not being a respecter of persons.  Because I blog, write books, publicly ask dumb questions about tech stuff and help others with their good questions, I've acquired a lot of people in my Twitter followers, Facebook friends, and Google+ circles that I haven't had personal face to face contact with..  When I got my first Android phone, it wanted to add all those to my personal contacts.  I never thought much about it till I got more active on social media.

I've always sent my friends birthday greetings on Facebook.  At least the ones who included their birthdays in the birthday app I use.  But, as my group of "friends" expanded, there have been those who I didn't have much direct contact.  But those were few, so they got included.

My circles on Google+ are massive.  Plus there are those who have circled me for some reason, that I haven't circled back.  And it isn't a matter of putting your birthday in the same birthday app I use.  If I have someone in my circles or I'm in theirs, and they've included a birthday, Google Now will give me an opportunity to wish them a happy birthday.  At least that's how I understand it to work.  But our direct contact might have been limited to a few +1s, which didn't  seem like much of a reason to wish everyone a birthday wish.  Just those I was more actively involved with.  And then I had an "aha moment" that changed my thinking.

The verses we began with  could be summed up this way:

  • God doesn't discriminate against anyone.  His blessings are available to all, if we choose to grab them.
  • Jesus didn't rely on His own thinking to determine how He would act.
  • We need to be transformed into being more like Him.
With something very similar to those thoughts in mind, those birthday greetings took on a whole new life.  I had started out thinking that those without any real connection wouldn't think much of the greetings.  "Who's this guy?".  But the change got me thinking of all the people on social media who, for whatever reason, hadn't forged close relationships.  And who knows if that wasn't true with personal relationships, too.  And how many of us don't have Google Now or some other app to remind us, or we assume someone closer to a person will send a greeting.

God, through Jesus Christ and through us, intends to make an impact with a blessing.  If we're going to be like Jesus, shouldn't that be important to us, too?  Even if I have 10 or 15 greetings in a day, that's no more than 15 minutes a day whose impact for good we may never know.  I had several recent examples of that.  

Several months ago, I had a young lady from one of the eastern European countries contact me, about 18 hours after I sent a birthday greeting.  Even though she had several hundred people circled and a similar number had circled her, I was, at that point, the only one on Google+ who had sent her a birthday greeting.  My taking a few seconds to send it had made a difference in her life.  Her day was going to be that much nicer because I had taken those few seconds.

More recently, someone who I'm sure got a bunch of greetings wrote me back saying that my birthday greeting had touched him because I was a friend, even though we hadn't physically met. My greeting had meant something to him and his response meant something to me.  No matter what the circumstances, as communicators, believers, and just plain people, we want to positively impact people.  But we're not always sure we've done that.  It's nice when we can do that and find that out.

The point isn't the birthday greetings.  It's how we connect with others.  If we're going to be like Jesus, we will want to spread blessings indiscriminately, forgive blatantly, love exuberantly.  And what God calls us to do will depend on who we are, not some "must do" formula.  It could be those birthday greetings or it could be something else, but we'll want to do it.  We'll look forward to living in that part of our call.  And our walk will make a difference.

How has God's transformation of your life made you want to bless others, today?

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