My mom was telling me recently about a Christian she met who seemed to focus quite a bit on sin and how he had to keep out of sin. She found it odd, and a little troubling, and I do, too. After our conversation about it, I kept thinking about it, and then this verse popped into my head:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ~Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
And I thought, If we applied every adjective in this as our filter for what we thought about on a regular basis, what kinds of thoughts would make it through? The result not only reinforced and provided a framework for several ideas I’ve held onto for years, but it also made me see Christianity in a totally new light.
If we took that verse seriously as our filter, which would we ponder?
- Our sin (real or imagined), or the forgiveness we have in Jesus?
- The crap others do to us, or the love God pours out on them?
- The apparent hopelessness of our current situation, or all of God’s promises given to us through Jesus?
- How others deserve their present situation because of foolish decisions, or the freedom Jesus has for them?
- All the ways in which we don’t measure up, or that we have been made as we should be in Jesus?
- The pain or misdeeds of our past, or the new creation we are through Jesus?
- All the ways by which others may or may not go to hell, or all that Jesus offers them through him?
If those were really the only things we thought about, what would we think about?
- Our foolishness or our wisdom?
- Our darkness or our light?
- Our pain or our wholeness?
- Our curses or our blessings?
- Our fear or our love?
And how, then, would that affect the way we present ourselves to the world?
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” ~Luke 6:43-45 (NIV)
All these options have the potential to define our self-perception, which is the tree. And the fruit?
It is apparent to anyone who has eyes to see.
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” ~Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)