Yesterday the pastor of the church we’ve been visiting was speaking on the topic of Good Advice. The main point of his sermon was that too often people seek out “yes men” for their decisions – they fail to seek out enough perspective before making a decision and so their choices often lead to hardship. The pastor suggested that for many people, life is about acceptance: we crave it, and so we seek it, and we’ll give it in order to obtain it.
In other words, we’ll give people a pass on things they do if they’ll give us a pass on the things we do. The Romans called it quid pro quo. Scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
The pastor went on; rather than acceptance, he said, what we really want is discernment. To know which things are good, and to be able to choose them. When we can discern for ourselves, we don’t have to trade our approval for someone else’s; we can simply do what we know to be right. We still seek counsel in order to do things wisely, but the fundamental idea of knowing what we should do gives us clarity and focus. It doesn’t leave us chasing our tails.
I was amazed by the pastor’s ability to bring that together. I find myself trying to be an accepting person when what I really want to be is a discerning person. Too often I trade my approval for the approval of others, and I’m learning I don’t have to do that. I can disagree with someone about the how or why of something and not have to feel beholden to them, as if I’m responsible for making them feel good about their life choices.
As the pastor pointed out, I’m responsible before God for me. Not anyone else.
That doesn’t mean that I live a life of isolation and nonchalance. There’s still a mandate from God to be light in the world. But how people respond to the light isn’t up to me; I simply have to live according to His word and His spirit. He’ll do everything else.
Discernment. Wisdom. Strength. I want them all, and have been praying for God to develop them within me. How about you?