For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
Last night, Suanne and I watched Paddington 2. It is a delightful story. Too often today, when I come to the end of a movie, I feel discouraged rather than uplifted. Paddington 2 was the opposite. Although the main plot of the story was about finding a thief, the underlying message of the story was that one person can make a difference. Wherever Paddington went, he changed the environment for the better.
As followers of Christ, we underestimate our ability to make a difference in our environment. We have bought into Satan’s lie that we are powerless to change things. Instead, we grit our teeth and quietly endure. We need to learn the lesson of Paddington Bear; each of us can make a difference right where we are. The way that we relate to others will have a powerful effect on our environment.
Wherever Jesus went, He changed the environment. He demonstrated that He genuinely cared for people. Because of Jesus’ actions, He changed the way people treated one another. Jesus elevated the status of women and children in a society that devalued both. Jesus revealed the value in people that was hidden from others and even themselves. Although Jesus never ignored or minimized the sin in people, He recognized their value and drew out the good in them. Jesus treated people with dignity and respect, and consequently they began to live up to Jesus’ image of them.
People tend to live up to our expectations. If you expect a person to fail, more times than not they will. If we expect a person to live a debased life, they will. But if we expect a person to live up to their God-given potential, they will. Whether we realize it or not, the way we treat others shapes who they become. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned us to be very careful how we relate to others. The way we relate to others, the expectations we place upon others, will dramatically shape our environment.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Matthew 7:1-5
Jesus made it clear that if we take a critical attitude toward others then our relationship with them will be adversarial. Jesus isn’t saying that we should overlook obvious sin (as many today what to interpret this passage), but that we need to address those issues with humility and compassion. Later in chapter 7, Jesus summarizes the approach we should take. So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
When Paul wrote to the Colossian believers, he told them that He was praying that they would live lives worthy of their calling in Christ. Paul expressed the same wish to the Ephesians. In his letter to the Ephesians he continues his thought by describing exactly what it means to live a life worthy of Christ.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:1-2
Too often we enter into our everyday world as antagonists. We are quick to point out the faults of our society. We complain about all that is wrong with our environment, then wonder why nothing changes. We have the power to change our world, but only if we make the effort to be genuinely humble and gentle, patient and loving toward all that we meet. We can all learn a vital lesson from Paddington Bear. We can make a positive difference in our world. It all begins with how we choose to treat others.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.