Have you ever had a contagious disease? Have you ever given one to someone else? Disease is transmitted by mechanisms well understood by medical science. Do you think of pain as being contagious? It isn’t transmitted in the same way that disease is, and this is more of a psychological question than a medical one, but have you met people in pain who are very effective at transmitting their pain? What is the alternative? Suffering in silence? Is it possible to do better than that? Could your pain be transformed into redemptive purpose that is also contagious to other people?
What is the most spiritual thing you do? Go to church? I offered a lesson in priorities when I said that if you come to offer a gift on the altar, and recall that your brother has something against you, that you should leave your gift and go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift. Is church attendance the modern equivalent of offering your gift? Is this more spiritual than being reconciled to your brother? My illustration suggests that it is not. Have you ever left a church service to attend to a matter of human reconciliation? Feel free to do so.
If you seek me you will find me, but have you found that if you do this I will meet you where you are? In addition I will meet you as you are. If you regard yourself as an artist I will meet you as an artist. If you think of yourself as a respected intellectual you will think of me the same way. Is your perception of me a comprehensive description of my being? No, but I can reveal myself in many ways. Don’t judge others for perceiving me differently than you do. They would say the same about you.
Peacemakers are highly rated in the Bible, so you should want to be one. Don’t assume that this is something that only diplomats and statesmen can do. The term implies that you must start with an absence of peace. How hard is it to find strife? Then how do you go about making peace? You can start by bringing the two sides together and helping them to see how much they have in common. Don’t discount the value of shared humanity. Problems are solved at a higher level of thinking than gave rise to them. Disputes resolve at the level of transcendence.
Have you heard of the military industrial complex? It is ironic that the man who warned of this was a general and the commander of the prevailing side in the largest war in history. Yet his concerns have proven to be valid. Do you suppose there is also an evangelical industrial complex? Have you ever seen overlap between the Kingdom of God and the world of commerce, or blurred distinctions between them? The workman is worthy of his wages, and those who labor among you are worthy of support. Blessed are those who do well by doing good.
The human desire for justice and explanations is strong, so in the face of tragedy and suffering, people will try to assign blame. I faced this same question with regard to a man who was born blind. The question that the religious leaders debated was who sinned that this came about? Was it him or his parents? I answered the question that it was neither the man nor his parents. Blame isn’t always assignable and this is worth remembering as a general rule, since you are not called on to judge. Then I healed the man. So would you rather be an arbiter of cosmic justice or a healer?
Have you ever taken a wrong turn? The problem with the wrong route is that it leads to the wrong destination. This is so obvious as to seem trivial with regard to road travel, but do you see that the same principle applies to other aspects of your life? Can you see the long term consequences of the choices you make every day? The right decisions will not only be right for today, but for tomorrow, and for next year, and for the rest of your life, and forever. This may mean that your choices may be for things other than what is fun and pleasant right now.
Are you familiar with the passages of scripture in which the early apostles prayed for boldness in presenting the gospel message? Did they seem fairly bold already? Have you noticed that this has become the gold standard of evangelism, to be forceful and outspoken? Do you use this approach? Is there another way? Do you find that you are more persuaded by humble entreaty or by force? People who feel threatened become defensive and oppositional. So there is more than one way to present the gospel message, and he who is wise is led by the Spirit and wins souls.
Are you careful with your money and spend it wisely, insisting on the best value for what you spend? There is wisdom in frugality, but not all spending and value is monetary. Everyone suffers. Have you met people with a rare sense of patience and grace and realized that they didn’t get it from a life of comfort and ease? Would you reach the same conclusion about someone with a broken spirit and a contrite heart? Yet not everyone who suffers acquires virtue as a result. Suffering is more precious than money. Are you spending yours wisely to get the best value from it?
How broad is your definition of faith? Do you limit it to the doctrinal claims of your church? Is there a more general perspective on this concept? A person who commits their life to a huge project and puts in time and effort and money not knowing whether it will succeed or not is demonstrating a type of faith that is universally admired. You may not consider this to be a saving faith, but the person doing so may have more invested in his faith than you do in yours. But you don’t have to choose between one and the other.