“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5
In the United States, election years are combative and negative. The common approach of many candidates is to degrade their opponents so they will be the one approved for the job. By the end of the campaign, voters could be tempted to vote, “None of the above!”
The reason the public tolerates such conflicts is that the vitality of the nation’s future is considered in the balance of the outcome. The strength of the candidate is revealed in their ability to withstand the attacks and respond with verbal agility to counterpunch and overcome no matter how ugly or disrespectful they must become.
It would be wonderful if politics were the only venues for such debate, but this conflict can be seen throughout our society. It is in families, churches, PTA meetings, community service organizations, and even sports. In each situation, relationships are destroyed, and good people are villainized.
The Apostle Paul faced similar circumstances with the church at Corinth. Paul attempted to teach God’s way of living and others taught the way of the world. To win the debate, many wished to question if Paul was legit. Their focus was on their “foe.” Their goal was to judge for themselves whether Paul’s impute was acceptable.
Paul’s response was to change the focus. Instead of judging him, Paul encouraged them to judge themselves. More than their concern for Paul’s passing grade, should be their concern for approval from God.
The greatest concern any believer has is never how they compare to others so much as how they compare to the expectations of the Holy Spirit who should reside in them. The real test for every believer is whether we reflect Christ and His love as we deal with daily life.
The true believer surrenders feelings and frustrations to continuously represent the Lord we serve. No amount of accusations or attacks should force the true believer to become less than honoring of the Lord.
If you find yourself in a conflicting situation, be like Paul. He admitted he had weaknesses but committed them to the Lord so that God’s power would be evident through his weaknesses. The more our world celebrates the latest brawl, the more we should celebrate a chance to learn from life how to be more like Christ. The real test is not winning the debate but winning at Life. Strive to hear the Lord say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”
Bro. John A. Temple is retired pastor of Poplar Springs Drive Baptist Church, currently serving as chaplain for the Lauderdale County Sheriff Office. From the Shepherd's Heart is published Fridays in The Meridian Star.