It seems these days that socially awkward nerds are in. In my day we were just picked on. Being socially awkward is no joke as it leaves people feeling on the outside. Often it is just a matter of being unsure what is acceptable behaviour in a new environment. It happened to me when I went from elementary school to junior high school. In elementary I had all my friends I had grown up with. We knew what to expect from each other and we accepted each other. Bigger school, lots of kids I didn't know, not many friends and no idea how to conduct myself. It left me standing on the outside looking in, which made me a target. This also happens in the Christian family more than we realize.
Imagine knowing what is acceptable behaviour for most of your adult life. You have your friends, family and all the various activities you enjoy. You have a certain way of talking, certain language you use. Suddenly you are introduced to Jesus, you are gloriously saved, born again and now everything is different. The difference is as great as a baby going from the womb to the world. Big shock. How does one behave in this new setting? What is acceptable? What isn't?
Unfortunately too many churches take these people under their wings and teach them how to conform to the acceptable behaviour of that particular church. But it isn't about conformity. Jesus Christ is all about transformation. We need to be teaching new Christians how to hear and obey the Spirit so the Spirit can continue with the transformation process. God does not want us to change our behaviour; he wants to change our heart which will affect our behaviour.
Yesterday we considered Paul's instructions to Timothy to run from temptation and to do what is right. These instructions should always be understood as our actions in cooperation to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In and of ourselves we are not capable of righteousness but, because of the ongoing transformation in us, we are capable. Consider this instruction:
Be faithful, loving, and easy to get along with. (2 Timothy 2:22, CEV)
Consider the words carefully. Weigh them against your heart and your behaviour. This is what is acceptable behaviour in the Kingdom of God. This is the crowd you hang out with now. The Spirit of God in you desires this in you. He is working to make it happen but we have to make the decision to cooperate, to make these our daily goals. It is only possible when we are determined each day to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. The moment we allow "self" to start getting in the way is the moment we fail.
Be faithful; to the covenants that we make; to Jesus and to each other. Be faithful to the promises that we make. Be faithful to relationships. Be faithful to the Church and the leaders Jesus has placed us under. Be faithful to what is good, holy and pleasing to God. Be faithful.
Be loving. I am constantly stymied by this. If we are not honest with ourselves we will gloss over it with "Of course I am loving" but when we really examine God's love against our hearts then we are overwhelmed by our failure. I am tired and allow "self" to get in the way as I correct my child. The words come out harsh and unkind. Correction is very necessary but harshness is not. My wife asks me to turn off a light she forgot. She just got into bed and I have been there for ten minutes, almost asleep. "Self" would tell her to do it herself. Love would only be too glad to serve my wife. If I do it with resentment in my heart it is not love. This is a major thing to realize that God's transformation means a cooperation to be loving. And if we aren't then we had better examine ourselves to see if we understand how he has loved us.
Be easy to get along with. We could spend a long time on this one. Don't be argumentative. Make people your priority. Don't judge behaviour when it is the heart that matters. Don't develop a protectionist attitude that will separate you from the world. Don't accept sin but don't allow it to keep you in your house either. Jesus told us to "go" and make disciples. We can't do that hiding in our house. If a brother or sister sees something in the Word a bit different from you that's okay. God teaches all of us. If that thing is going to take them away from Jesus then speak to your pastor for advice on what to do and what to say. Most importantly, listen to the Spirit and follow his lead. Whatever you do, be loving and easy to get along with.
This whole section is pretty solid in instruction on Kingdom behaviour. We would all be in a better place if we studied this and asked the Spirit's help in implementing it in our lives. Remember, it is already in you through the desire of the Spirit to see this completed in you, it only requires our cooperation. Walk in the Spirit today my friend and see how much of "self" needs to be kicked to the curb.