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I pray that the Lord will guide you to be as loving as God and as patient as Christ. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (CEV)

It was far from my finest moment. There certainly was no compassion, no grace or no acceptance in my actions. I was totally out of line.  It was several years ago now, but the memory is still fresh in my mind. The neighbors were having marital issues and the husband came over to talk to me and try to get information that he could use against his wife.

To be honest I don’t remember much of the conversation even though it went on for close to two hours. What I do remember is that at some point he made a comment about how his (soon-to-be) ex-wife could never be forgiven for what she’d done to the marriage. I wasn’t thinking. I intended to put a hand on his shoulder and reassure him that his statement wasn’t true. What I did instead was more of a grasp and push. He looked scared. I was embarrassed. I apologized of course and later we laughed about the scene.

While the physical parts of my actions are most likely not practiced by many, each of us has been on one end or the other of a good ‘holy shove’. You have a loved one that you see self-destructing. The most frustrating part of it is that ‘they should know better’ but they just keep going down the same road. So, you shake them up. Not physically of course (I hope), but with your words, your attitude, your ‘sharing the gospel with them’ and ‘setting them straight’.

In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul lays the foundation for how we treat others. Our actions towards each other are to be marked with love and unity. That is the key for our evangelism. That is the key for discipleship and discipline.

We were called as Christ-followers to make disciples, not converts. Disciples take time. Disciples grow due to relationship. Disciples follow our Godly example not our theological knowledge. Discipleship takes patience. Not any patience by the way, but the patience of Christ.

The patience of Christ is seen in the story of the prodigal son. Daily the father watched the road leading home. Daily he heard stories of his son’s antics and failures. Daily he prayed for his safe return. On that glorious day when a familiar shape walked down the road towards him he didn’t have an ‘I told you so’ speech ready. There was no list of the young man’s failures and a ‘how could you do this to us’ tongue-lashing. There was only love and celebration.

Patience with ourselves and others isn’t possible without the patience of Christ in us. It’s easier to be patient with the jerks in life when I fully realize what Jesus went through for me. It’s by his patience that I seek to treat others. But that still isn’t easy. I want change now. Change in your life. Change in mine. Change comes slowly in God’s world. We serve a ‘crock-pot’ God and live in a microwave world.

Attitude is the key to life change. If those who are struggling see us as patient, loving and caring people who truly seek their good they will respond as God works in their lives. Ours is not to change lives. Ours is to provide the direction and atmosphere for change.

If you are dealing with someone who you’d like to give a good shoulder shake, remember to act according to the love of God and patience of Christ. If you’ve been on the other end of the emotional ‘shoulder-shake’ realize that Gods way is a way of firm gentle calling, not shaking. Like the father in the prodigal son, he’s daily calling you home and searching the path for your approach. He loves you no matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done.

PRAYER: Father God, help me to exhibit your love and Christ’s patience in my life as I travel this journey. Forgive me for the emotional ‘shoulder shakes’ I’ve had a part in. Heal my wounds from the shoulder-shakes I’ve endured. Thank you for being patient with me. In Jesus name, Amen.

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May 2011
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