How to be a better person? # 15

BEING VIGILANT

Jesus said this regarding the kingdom. The same can be said about being a better person. “But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (Mt. 13:25). “For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Ja. 1:13-14).

Being vigilant about what we say and do is as basic as liquid and food. We do not live on bread alone and even bread must be obtained the honest way for it not to become an obstacle (Mt. 4:4; Lk. 4:4). Weed seed is smaller than wheat seed; yet, it has the strength to destroy the wheat. Desire is like a seed that requires a tinny piece of property where it can be conceived and grown into a huge problem. Desire has to be fed and reinforced by things we cannot have. James drew this conclusion: “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death” (Ja. 1:15).

Years ago, we dug a small lake. My father and I found a small turtle in the creek and we threw it into the lake. A friendly farmer informed us that it was a snapping turtle and it lived on fish. Our innocence and ignorance cost us many fish before my wife hooked the turtle with a hotdog. I had similar encounters with myself. I overlooked small discrepancies and ended up fighting a major battle inside of me. The conflict, within me, ended up requiring medical attention. My wife and I disagree on many things and we regard it as essential for our mental and spiritual growth. We have long learned that we learned little from agreeing constantly. We had and still have occasions when disagreements can become a wedge and we require vigilance to correct and reaffirm our love and understanding for each other. Our task is even more difficult when outside interference disrupts us. That is why if at all possible, we do not let the sun set on our anger (Eph. 4:26).
We have managed to be vigilant for fifty-three years. My parents did it for sixty-six years.

We have heard it said, “The buck stops here!” That is the heart of our problem. When the buck stops then it is too late to resolve it. We must tackle it aggressively when “the buck begins.” We nip it when it begins to itch. Sin begins when we desire something and not when we are engaged in it (Mt. 5:27-32). We cause it to grow out of hand when we encourage sin with our promises that we cannot keep (Mt. 5:33-37). We do live in a world where we depend and need each other. From time to time, we do incur indebtedness that can be compensated in a rational and congenial matter rather than before a judge or a jury. Leniency is more readily available out of court than in court (Mt. 5:21-26). The willingness to forgive and settle peacefully covers a multitude of sins (Ja. 5:19-20). An attempt to seek forgiveness, in an early stage, can prevent a lengthy and even endless hostility. There are times when we feel hurt; yet, the person that may have caused the hurt is unaware of it. It is helpful and appropriate to contact that individual and inquire kindly what the cause could be (Mt. 5:23)? I have found that I was hurting myself by my own false assumptions. Our minds do occupy themselves with things that do not exist (Mt. 6:25-34).

Being vigilant requires looking back over our shoulder. It is like defensive driving with an eye on the rearview mirror. To discourage drivers from tailing us too closely and get us into trouble (Gal. 6:1). Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”(Mt. 6:13). There are far too many people, in this world, that crowd us deliberately and get us into compromising situations (Mt. 18:7). They use brotherly love to worm themselves into our confidence and then take advantage of our weakness (II Tim. 3:6). There is apprehension about being a Good Samaritan when the victim may be a mugger. We are our brother’s keeper, but what do we do when he is another Cain? We were on vacation and visited a Dairy Queen. I opened the door and hit a lady. I apologized and later discovered that she had used the occasion to free me of my wallet. Good intentions without being on guard are almost impossible to maintain. Then who of us can be on guard constantly? That is why we need others to be vigilant with us. We must have some of us stay awake and watch that the enemy does not sow weeds into our wheat.

There is strength in two or three together (Mt. 18:20). Jesus, Himself, before a difficult task, took with him Peter, James and John (Mk. 5:37; Mt. 17:1; Mk. 14:33). Jesus surrounded Himself with twelve men. Only three were up in front with Jesus. The others watched His back. The only time they slept, they lost their Lord (Mt. 26:45). These followers did not come from Jesus’ family, relatives or community (Mk. 3:21). Jesus’ own religion did not unite the people behind Him (Mt. 10:34-36). This was very troubling because the family or the household was the cornerstone of the Hebrew society. Yet, Jesus no longer felt safe among them (Lk. 4:13-30). There was and still is safety in numbers; especially, when we can trust each other while we look out for our neighbor’s interest. Unfortunately, we have replaced the group with individualism and therefore find ourselves in difficulties enlisting partners in vigilance. We need guardians that keep us alert while we seek to become better persons. All this must begin with me. It is my in-put that can help my vigilant partners protect my progress. To encourage my growth, they must offer suggestions that may not be to my liking. One does not learn much from one that always agrees; nor, does one feel safe from one that fails to be vigilant. “Blessed is the servant (person), whom his lord when he returns finds so doing (watching)” (Mt. 24:46).