Friday, January 21, 2011

Blessings or Cursings?

I am surprised at how many people do not understand the principle of cause and affect as it relates to what happens to them in their lives.

For them, really bad things happened all the time in their lives and they have no idea why. Bad things like angry blowups with a spouse, being fired from jobs, problems with neighbors, bills piling up, sicknesses and constant drama with their children seem to come out of the blue and sucker punch their happiness and drain them of joy.

Without understanding the impact of cause and effect, one might conclude that everything bad in life just happens randomly or that God is mad at you and was actively cursing your life. That feeling of helplessness or being a victim robs us of hope and the belief that we can do something that will make our lives better. Our hope for change is reduced to dumb luck - and how often does anyone win the lottery?

I wonder how much of this "cause and effect" deficiency stems from the common idea saying some behaviors are "right" and other behaviors are "wrong" means we are improperly judging the behavior of others. In a world of political correctness, one has to say "This is what works for me." One cannot say "This is what YOU should do." 

In our neighborhood Bible Study last Sabbath we explored the idea that not everything that happens to us is the result of random time and chance. We covered four key concepts that turn us from victims in life without any control over our current and future circumstances into active participants in life whose actions can make a difference - and bring hope for positive changes in our lives.

First, we discussed the concept that some decisions we make bring curses to our neighbors and ourselves. For example, stealing someones stuff creates anger, distrust, frustration, fear and discouragement. When one doesn't have extra money to replace something essential that was stolen, hope is lost.

The actions of a thief make him a curse to others. The thief also suffers from a curse - with guilt, self-loathing, fear and anxiety at being caught or betrayed.

Second, we discussed the idea that God has given "short cuts"  in the Bible to understand what makes us either a curse or a blessing to ourselves and our neighbors. Without this special revealed knowledge we are reduced to experimentation to discern what decisions work well and what work badly. Unfortunately, it is often hard to discern what decision is a good decision because a good choice can be smothered by curses brought by bad choices.

Without God's "shortcuts" to understanding, how can anyone know for certain what life choices work and which ones don't? Rather than stumbling on something that works, God wants us to be fully aware of how we can be a blessing to others. He also wants us to know what makes us a curse to our family, our neighbor and our community.

Third, we talked about what defines "cursed" life choices and what defines "blessed" life choices. Curses come from us sinning. But what is sin? Rather than some nebulous definition of "sin" like "something that hurts others" we explored the three definitions of sin in the New Testament:

1. Knowing to do good but not acting on it: James 4:17 "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

2. Acting against our conscience: Romans 14:23 "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin."

3. Breaking God's Laws: 1 John 3:4 "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."

It is good that we can understand what actions make us a blessing to others (obedience to God and Jesus and doing what they say) and what actions make us a curse to ourselves and others (disobeying God, violating our conscience and not loving our neighbor.) With that understanding comes insight into why many curses come into our lives and how we can become a blessing to others.

Finally, we talked about one of the roles that Jesus plays in our lives - that of removing the curses that come from our disobedience. In Galatians 3:13 the apostle Paul says of Jesus: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” Our willingness to believe and repent of our sins and rebellion opens the door for Jesus to die and absorb the curse in our stead.

Jesus has taken the role of redeemer in the lives of those who enter into a new covenant with Him. We who were slaves to all manner of sin can be freed from the curse of our disobedience and fashioned into a new person by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Those in whom the Holy Spirit of God lives and who exercise their faith through obedience become a blessing to others just as Jesus is a blessing to us. This new outlook on life is different from a self-centered, selfish and greedy way of living.

Rather than seeking to be blessed as our goal, we seek to become a blessing to others as we have opportunity, ability and understanding. A community of believers who focus on being a blessing to each other and their neighbors, who look out for each other and "have each other's back" is something of great worth and value. One of our goals in Common Ground is to foster the creation of many of those communities.

Our community of believers has a breakfast Bible Study at our Ministry House on Sabbath, January 22 at 8:30 AM. The address is 331 Lynn Street, Indianapolis, IN 46222. You are welcome to attend! Dress is casual and breakfast will be served.


Guy Swenson