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Turning a Blind Eye to an Inconsiderate Person

Though we were standing right in front of him, the man remained seated and did not budge.

I cast a glance in my friend’s direction. “Excuse me, we’re sitting inside,” my friend said to him politely, pointing to the two seats next to his by the window of the airplane.

Still not making any eye contact, the man merely straightened his back and pushed back against his seat.

I felt a flash of annoyance.  “Are you kidding me? How inconsiderate and lazy can a person get?” I thought, but was too cowardly to voice my views.

My friend shrugged helplessly. Reluctantly, I tried my best to squeeze through the tiny space between the back of the seat in front of the man and his legs. My friend followed suit.

As we took our seats, my friend whispered to me, “If you can hold your bladder for the rest of the flight, that’ll save us the trouble.” I nodded grimly, as I thought about the seven hour-long journey ahead of us.

From the corner of my eye, I saw the man fidgeting in his seat, shaking his left hand every so often, and lifting his watch to his left ear. A flight attendant walked over and kneeled next to his seat, asking if everything was okay. Perhaps he was hard of hearing, I thought.

A couple of hours into the flight, I knew I had no choice but to visit the lavatory. I nudged my friend, who turned to the man to tell him that I needed to get out. Once again, the man straightened his back and remained seated.

Sighing silently, I lifted my left leg and tried to squeeze through the small space between the man’s legs and the front of his seat. I repeated the same when I returned to my seat, my frustration rising.

Mealtime was next. Another flight attendant walked over and kneeled by the man’s aisle seat to ask him what he wanted to eat. After helping him to open up his tray table, she placed a tray of food on it. Still kneeling, the flight attendant then gently placed her hand over his right wrist and lifted his hand. “This is hot, this is cold, this is where your drink is. . .” she said kindly, as she guided it over the different covered food items on his tray.

That’s when realization hit me: The man was visually impaired. Everything that happened earlier started to make sense and a wave of shame came over me. Self-reprimanding thoughts filled my mind: “I should have known better”, “Why didn’t I give him the benefit of doubt?”, “Why am I always so quick to jump to conclusions about others?”

As I watched my friend offer to help the man with anything he needed, I saw a smile emerge on his face. He looked relieved and thanked my friend. Shortly after that, he asked if my friend could help him open the lid of a disposable water cup, which my friend did willingly.

Clearly, I was the inconsiderate person that day, not the man.

But that was not all that God wanted to teach me. As I went about sharing this encounter with others, God laid it on my heart that “feeling bad” about my response that day wasn’t anything to shout about—anyone in my shoes would have felt bad. I felt bad because I had misjudged the man and the situation at hand. I felt bad because my “little inconvenience” paled in comparison to what the man had to go through; he was clearly in a position of need and deserved help. I felt bad because my response made me look bad.

The truth was, had the man been an able-bodied person, I would have found all kinds of reasons to justify my anger and response. If the man didn’t deserve my help, I would have railed against his behavior and made him out to be a lazy and inconsiderate person whenever I had the opportunity to retell the incident.

My response was contingent on who the other party was and my assessment of his “need”. Underneath it all, I was still selfish and proud.

But the Bible never places conditions on how we should go about treating one another. In fact, we are called to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). In all that we do, we should consider others first.

And we do so because we are called to imitate Jesus—our ultimate role model. In perfect humility, Jesus put aside his rights and status as God, and made himself nothing by coming to earth in the form of a human to serve us and ultimately die for us on the cross. (Philippians 2:5.8).

Jesus exemplified perfectly what it means to put the needs of others above our own. It was never about whether we “deserved” help. Had that been the case, none of us would have been saved. Jesus did not simply die for the “righteous” or “good”. It was while we were still sinners—unworthy of love and sympathy—that Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

So regardless of who the other party is, we ought to view them as more important and put his or her needs first—whether it’s that friend who always has something snarky or sarcastic to say, or that nosy aunty who can’t seem to stop giving you advice, or that inconsiderate stranger who shoves you aside so that he can get up the bus first. Showing love and helping another is independent of who the other party is.

By doing so, we give the people around us—both inside and outside of the church—a glimpse of the unconditional and sacrificial love of Christ, which will hopefully draw them a step closer to finding out who Jesus is and coming to believe in Him as their personal Lord and Savior.

Above and beyond my encounter with the man on the plane, I had to change the way I viewed and treated everyone around me. God certainly made it clear to me that it had to start at home in the most practical way—helping out in the household chores. And this means to take the initiative to help wash the dishes, hang the clothes, or fold the clothes without being told to, and without expecting a pat on the back.

And to be sure, it doesn’t stop there and it wouldn’t always be easy. But remembering Jesus, the ultimate example of selflessness, leaves me no room to find any excuses.

Who is Truly Wise?

Day 19 | Today’s passage: James 3:13-16 | Historical context of James

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

At school, children are often encouraged to participate in class by answering a myriad of questions posed by their teachers. It is a common sight to witness a few hands shoot up in the air (with some attempting to raise their hands even higher to catch the teacher’s attention).

But how exactly do you identify who is smart? Is it necessarily the one who answers the most questions in class? Or is it the one who scores the highest grades? Well, this might be the world’s way of assessing one’s intellect. But when it comes to true wisdom, God has a different assessment criteria altogether.

Who is truly wise?
James says: “Let them [who are wise and understanding] show it by their good life, by deeds done” (v. 13). According to James, wisdom is shown through how a person applies the knowledge he has gained about God in life’s situations, and who does so in a right and loving way. It is evidently displayed through the decisions made, actions undertaken, and words spoken. As Ronald Blue (a Christian financier) states: “Wisdom is not measured by degrees but by deeds. It is not a matter of acquiring truth in lectures but of applying truth to life.”

It is interesting to note that there is a close relationship between wisdom and humility (v. 13). The wise person is a humble person. Humility has the attributes of gentleness and submissiveness; it does not imply weakness in any sense. A familiar Bible character who’s described as such is Moses (Numbers 12:3)—and Moses was certainly not weak! Throughout his life, there was a constant submission to God and His word—which truly marked him as a man of God.

James also goes on to distinguish between false wisdom and true wisdom. The source and outcome for both are completely different. False wisdom is “earthly, unspiritual, of the devil” and results in “disorder and evil practice” (vv. 15-16). It is marked by “bitter envy and selfish ambition” (v. 13). Have we ever been guilty of taking on a difficult role in church on the pretext of serving God sacrificially but really because we wanted to prove that we could do a better job than our predecessor?

True wisdom, on the other hand, comes from having a holy, reverent fear of the Lord, and humbly acknowledging that God is the Lord of our lives (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10). True wisdom results in peace instead of disorder, and in righteousness instead of evil practices (v. 18).

That’s a sobering thought! If our effect on any committee or group is to drive people apart, stir up trouble, or create discord, then perhaps, the source of our wisdom is from the devil—not God.

Let us then pursue true, godly wisdom. James encourages us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (1:5). Are you willing to humbly admit your lack of true wisdom and ask God for it? What a privilege it is for us to have a loving God that generously gives wisdom to all who ask!

—Priscilla Goy, Singapore

Questions for reflection

1. Do you know someone who is wise? How can you tell?

2. What are some ways to cultivate godly wisdom? (See Proverbs 2,9)

Hand-lettering by Rachel Tu


Priscilla has an economics degree but decided she prefers reading stories to reading numbers. She loves true stories – especially stories of God’s love for people, people’s love for God, and people’s passion for social causes. She told such stories as a former journalist for five years, and hopes to still do so after joining the non-profit sector.
She loves Christian music, especially those with well-written lyrics. She writes poetry a few times, watches movies sometimes and drinks tea too many times. She’s a bit of a grammar Nazi, but is thankful for God and people who love her unconditionally.

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6 Ways to Take Your Relationship Deeper

Written By Janel Breitenstein, USA

When my family and I moved across continents, our lives were stripped down, and being in a new place made everything about three steps harder. I realized in those situations how desperately I needed friends. Real friends, who would plop down on my back porch while our kids got muddy, and who would swap their hearts’ stories with me. I needed friends who would show up when my husband had malaria or put an arm around my shoulder when I wasn’t there for my grandpa’s funeral.

God knew that we needed friendships that loved intrusively. It’s how Jesus loved us—setting aside His status (as God!) to get dirty in our mess. He swapped a throne for a reeking stable, put on diapers, went through puberty and single adulthood. Then, He took what I was carrying, and made it His own (Philippians 2:5-8). After all, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). Is that what should characterize our friendships? As laying down our own lives?

This is vital. Wherever you are.

But to reach that stage, I needed to build my friendships from scratch. And here are a few things I found useful to deepen my friendships:

1. Ask good questions and be willing to share

One of my favorite questions—though admittedly it can occasionally sound cheesy—is, “How’s your heart?” It’s my way of saying, How are you, really—on the inside? What are you wrestling with in there?

Of course, sometimes we simply want to be the one to whom people tell stuff; to be the confidante, the counselor. But love doesn’t let us get away with always being the giver in relationships. In the Bible, Peter had to allow Jesus to wash his feet (John 13:8-10) and Jesus allowed a woman to bathe his own feet in expensive perfume, and wipe them with her own hair (Matthew 26:7-11).

When I find myself slipping into that role of “always the giver”, it can help to be straightforward with friends: Hey, I tend to let my friendships be a little one-sided, because I get uncomfortable when people ask me questions. So I’m telling you this so you can call me out on it, and keep pursuing me.

 

2. Ask how you can pray for them

Praying is one of the most intimate forms of love. We’re fighting for someone, about their most intimate desires, fears, and concerns. I want to get into the spiritual boxing ring of prayer (like Jacob, who wrestled with God) alongside my friends, for them and the ones they love. I want us to at least get to the level of, “What would you ask God for right now? What matters the most to you that you’re wrestling with? What’s sitting on your heart like a big elephant?”

Sometimes, friends are too weary to pray for themselves. They might feel too afraid or alienated from God. They might feel grief or concern that overwhelms any words. They might not know what to say. It is such a privilege that I can pray for them.

Who do you know who might not have a lot of people praying on their behalf? Practically speaking, consider calling to check up on how they’re doing, or sending a text message or note in the mail to let them know some of the verses and thoughts you’re praying for them.

3. Tell the truth

I’m challenged by the simple words of Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Reality is, I have not always treated my friends as if they are members of my own body, communicating like my own body does with itself.

I am not false—not in the intentionally lying sense—but I am not always intentionally truthful, for the sake of “kindness” or my own security. I am not always faithful to speak the truth or say what someone might not want to hear. I may not love enough to be courageous.

If a friend is, say, caught in sexual sin—then I should care enough to quietly say, “I think I need to tell you what you probably already know. This is destroying you. I think you could dream a lot bigger—for a faithful, forever relationship that really valued you, and where you value them back.”

Honestly, when I’m not truthful with a friend, when I’m holding back, I can feel that between us. My friendships will only grow as deep as we both allow them to go.

 

4. Be vulnerable

Vulnerability takes so much security—first, in our vertical relationship with God. I find a direct correlation between my own humility and my ability to be transparent with other people. Humility says, I’m weak, a flawed sinner. That’s who I am. But God loves me. And that’s who I am. God’s love gives me the courage to be vulnerable and risk rejection.

Sometimes a lack of vulnerability may be because someone isn’t trustworthy. But more often it’s from self-protection; from a fear that if people know who I am, I’ll be rejected. Honestly, I used to wait for others to pursue me as a display of their concern for me—and sometimes still do. But knowing I always have God’s love gives me the courage to be vulnerable with others. And recognizing my own weakness before Him helps me acknowledge my own need for others to shoulder what I’m carrying (Galatians 6:2); that it’s not good for me to be alone (Genesis 2:18); that I can’t say, “I don’t need you!” to those God has given me in community (1 Corinthians 12:21).

Jesus is our ultimate example of vulnerability. He put Himself in a killable, dirty-able human body; He died naked, shamed and broken. Talk about vulnerability! I’m not saying we trust anyone with our most intimate, painful areas. After all, Jesus had his own concentric circles of friendship—His intimate three, then 12 disciples, then 72, then the crowds. But friendship is rewarding proportional to the courage and intimacy we’re willing to extend; and the bar that Jesus set—love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34)—is one that will take the rest of my life to pursue.

5. Be relentless

Not in a “I’m your friendly neighborhood stalker” sort of way, but in a kind of way that doesn’t look to our own interests, but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4).

Our current society does not seem to encourage true community well—for relationships that go the distance when it’s inconvenient, unhappy, sweaty, and generally uncomfortable. Thanks to social media we may still be in touch with people from high school—but we may also have 580 “friends” who assume they know us because of our status updates.

For relationships to go deeper, we need to be willing to tirelessly pursue them. Social media, of course, can also be a way to simply care for others more than ourselves; to love well, now that we know what’s going on. I’ve got to be willing to initiate, to crowd my calendar with people rather than just events. . . to be secure enough that friendships aren’t all about me.

6. Be aggressive about forgiveness

Forgiveness is easy to elude, right? It’s easy to choose blame, a hard heart, an alienated relationship. Forgiveness goes against all that’s natural in us. I’m amazed at how petty I can get about small “insults” from a friend—ways he or she seemed thoughtless and didn’t read my mind, things that seemed “obvious” because of my unique composition (which is why I need a friend in the first place), ways that someone didn’t return a kindness.

Friendships squeeze me into the discipline of returning a blessing for a perceived insult; of loving extravagantly. I’ve had to return in my own friendships with “I’m sorry”—with my own need for their mercy and graciousness. I am fascinated by this thought from American pastor and scholar Ligon Duncan that tells me a lot about relationships in general: “People don’t fall out of love. They fall out of repentance and forgiveness.”

After all, our affections follow our ability to extend and receive grace in imperfect relationships.

 

You can see that a lot of these ideas begin with a common, perhaps unexpected trait: humility, fastened tightly to love as the motivator in our relationships.

This year, may your relationships press into the next level of loving as Jesus loves us.

3 Ways to Nurture Humility

Written by Gabrielle Lee, Singapore

Humility—a word easier said than done.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people”.

This is how the world understands the word. But what does the Bible have to say about it? Philippians 2:5-8 points us to Christ as the perfect example of what humility looks like in the flesh:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

For someone who struggles with pride—like me—this is no easy feat. However, something I have learnt about humility is that God, in His grace, will always bring me back to the lessons that I need to learn. Here are three steps that I try to practise to keep myself on the right track.

  1. Take pride in the One who gives you your skills and successes

Humility begins with knowing and acknowledging the source of all our successes and accomplishments—God. It is God who has given us our skills and talents, and we are to use them wisely for His glory’s sake.

Keeping a journal is helpful, as it reminds us of how God is working in our lives (lest we forget and give undue credit to ourselves). Personally, I like to look back on the prayers and milestones recorded in my journal and see how God has preserved me in small and big ways. They remind me of His faithfulness, and help cultivate a heart of thankfulness in me.

2. Seek the right perspective and the right counsel

Humility is a tough lesson and it will take a lifetime to cultivate. On this journey of nurturing humility and becoming more Christ-like, there will definitely be ups and downs.

Knowing this truth helps me to be ready for potential setbacks—such as when I am told about my “unteachable” behavior in spite of my best attempts to demonstrate humility at work. Having the right perspective helps me to persevere in my pursuit of true Christ-like humility.

It also helps to seek godly counsel from others. My closest friends and family have constantly humbled me with their stories of faith, and I have learned a great deal from them. They are the people I turn to whenever I need godly counsel, because they know my weaknesses and struggles and I can be honest about them.

I strongly encourage you to seek to be a part of a community of like-minded believers with whom you can be comfortable and who can keep you accountable as they walk alongside you in this journey of growing in humility and Christ-likeness.

3. Become more aware . . . of yourself and others

God has created all of us differently. Knowing our own weaknesses and strengths helps us to better appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of others.

Want to grow in greater humility? Mix with people who are better—that would be a humbling process for sure.

One way to develop your self-awareness is to track and note down what triggers prideful behavior. Are there specific instances when you start getting arrogant or defensive? It could be at gatherings with friends, where you feel a sudden urge to boast about your achievements to fit in or impress others.

Reflect on such moments, and try to trace the triggers so that you can consciously choose to respond differently the next time you find yourself in a similar situation.

You could also say a short prayer and surrender your prideful thoughts to God, asking Him to take your thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), or memorize a portion of Scripture that can help when the time comes.

Pursuing humility is a tough battle against the very grain of our human nature—pride. But we can draw strength from the knowledge that it was one of the most distinctive marks of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He didn’t hesitate to wash the feet of His followers, and humbled himself even till the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Do you desire to be more like Christ? Start by taking small steps in pursuing humility today.