Well, this is the companion piece to the blog entry previous to this. In pondering how to rate the contact with various type of people that are beneficial to one's sanity, I had to start in what seemed a logical place, by placing God first and separately, because He cannot be put into numerical value--not that humanity can be so placed, but at least with humanity, it's a bit more credible. The premise that prompted this blog was the idea that a person needs to be in contact with an average of six people per day to keep a balanced and sane approach to life. When a person acknowledges God as a foundational aspect of this mix, I can't see that six mere humans would be necessary, but for the sake of just having a number that works, let's keep it there for now. There are various types of people with whom any average person will come into contact, and I will have the audacity to score how important they are in my life, on a scale of one to ten, ten being the best and most vital.
1.) Believers who will keep me accountable or at least point me to God should score a 10 because they will knowingly help me in my faith and growth, and make me think about things I wouldn't otherwise, and help me with my weaknesses and attitudes, and love me even though I know they know my faults.
2.) Believers who won't keep me accountable and who might just trip me up, whether knowingly or not, should score a 10, because if I am not staying alert to the hazards they provide, then it is my fault and I need to learn to avoid those stumbling blocks that emerge from their existence in my life.
3.) Believers whom I feel inclined to redirect toward God deserve a 10, because they keep me analyzing how to relate His truths to someone who seems receptive, and I have to stay sharp (as iron sharpening iron) for their sake.
4.) People who seem sweet and kind and wise and desirable to be around deserve a 10, because I should be aware that they may just be appealing to my pride, and I need practice making sure that I see through these tendencies and can practice recognizing any flimsiness in any flattering assertions I receive; also they may think that being nice gets them to heaven, and I need to be alert for ways to share the truth of the gospel with them, that it's not by being nice, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. They also deserve a 10 because there also are times when I need their encouragement.
5.) People who are needy and demand my patience and help deserve a 10, because they help me exercise God's charity and kindness and patience and love and I will hopefully realize my need for God's help and grace in dealing with them rightly. They might very well see the goodness and charity of God, and His hope, delivered through me, if I respond with God's help. This is vital, as it might well pave the way for sharing the gospel with them.
6.) People who are negative, taxing, and whom I don't desire to be around deserve a 10, because they also demand my exercise of patience and love and self-control, and I will all the more hopefully realize my need for God's help and grace, not practicing revenge but leaving room for God's wrath, and also hoping for a great witness of His goodness through me to them, when perhaps all others they encounter might have been mean and cutting or otherwise impatient in return.
7.) There are people who serve me professionally who deserve a 10, because most people would realize that since these people are subservient, that service should meet their expectations. However, if these people serve me wrong, I hope they will help me practice God's self-control, especially of my tongue; I will have to remember not to practice revenge, but to overcome evil with good, and forgive. And I will hopefully realize that this can only be done realistically with God's powerful help and grace. And perhaps they will recognize the goodness of God through me, because perhaps nine people before me have gotten them fired for such shoddy work.
8.) Then there may be those whom I serve professionally, who deserve a 10, because they realize that I am subservient to them and whether they treat me well or not, that I should treat them rightly. However, if I serve them poorly, they might exercise their wrath upon me, and in any case I may need to exercise self-control (relying on God all the while), and not revenge, and to forgive--in hopes that they will see this strange attitude and wonder, and come to realize that it is Christ in me that made me any different from the 20 people they chewed out that day before me.
9.) Then there are the little children, those who call me Mom, and they deserve a 10 as well, because I will see them at their best, and at their worst, and they will do more than anyone to polish my rugged, crackled, rough spots to shiny newness. I will have to exercise servanthood with them like with no other, and patience, and kindness, and self-control...and I don't have as much of it as I need at the start, but with God's help and grace, it will grow as they grow. I need to correct them and point them to God, and I may be the primary one doing it, so in turn, they will willingly and compulsively point out my inconsistencies and hypocrisies and have every right to do so. And they will love me in spite of my faults. And they are precious to God because He has a special place in His heart for children, and their character and spiritual growth will likely be impacted strongly by how I treat them, how much I teach them, how much I point them to God and His word...so all the more I need to be careful to obey Him in how I lead them.
10.) Then there are the little children who don't call me Mom, who deserve a 10 as well, because they are freer with their comments than adults and will tell me things as they see them, and because their behavior hasn't yet become so fully socialized and may try my patience and self-control. They are precious to God because they are not so cynical as adults, they'll believe what they are told, they are more likely to receive the truth of the gospel than any other portion of the population, and because they are the kind of people, He says, of which the Kingdom of Heaven is made. They deserve a 10 because I need to be all the more alert to how I represent Christ to them, depending on Him all the while.
11.) Then there is my spouse, who started out seeming so perfect, and now so many things I used to think were cute I may now find annoying...so he deserves a 10 too, because, living close-up like my children, he will do very many things that wear down my rough and ragged spots, and with God's grace here also, he will finally get to my more shiny spots that develop underneath. And I will say and do things that hurt him, and he will say and do things that hurt me, and he and I will learn forgiveness and patience and how to overlook things, and so he will help me grow like no one else can. He will also pick me up and encourage me, hopefully, when I need it, and correct me, and tell me things I need to know, that no other human being knows I need to know. And there will be times that he needs the same, and I need to be alert to those things and kind and sensitive with how I deliver them. And he will love me even though he knows my worst traits.
The funny thing is that when I started writing this blog post, I really did intend for some types of people to be rated more highly than others; but when I pondered why they were important, it was clear that they are individually and corporately important in my life, and I shouldn't shun or downplay the importance of any one of them. God in His sovereign wisdom has placed each one there with good reason, and my response may well be part of why He orchestrated that particular mix, and He is watching to see what good things might result from it. The children are precious to God, but so all of them are--He tends to refer to His disciples as children, in fact; He died for the sins of humanity, and it is not His will that any should perish. Without His help, I could not respond properly to even one person in this mix, not even once; and still so much of the time I do not. So it is a lifelong learning for me; I must be glad that He remains patient to teach me still.
Philippians 2:3-16 "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain."
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.