Friday, February 24, 2012

Ten Suggestions For My Unbelieving Friends

My life, I am persuaded, would fall apart in a heap in a moment were I not a servant of the Lord. Though it is true that Jesus is the very font of my happiness, that is not why I follow Him, nor how I would encourage you to follow Him. Rather I trust in His finished work, and embrace His Lordship because I believe His Word to be true. I pray the same might soon be said of you.

That said, though I fear if you do not repent and believe on His name that your after-life will be too horrible to contemplate, because you are my friend I hope for you the best possible life on this side of the veil. What follows are things you can do, or at least try to do, without embracing Jesus. To the extent that you succeed, your life will be better.

First, live for something bigger than yourself. You may be persuaded that there is nothing above, no transcendent goal, but I suspect in your more honest moments you would confess that you, yourself, you are definitely not a sufficient reason to live. Serving self will make for a miserable life. If you fail, you will be bitter and frustrated. If you succeed, you will face the vanity of it all. And then you die.

Second, turn off the idiot box and its incestuous cousins. Television does not provide rest, but agitates. It is eye candy, which is as healthy for you as nose candy. Youtube, Halo, Hulu and Netflix are just more of the same. These are machines, made by men’s hands telling stories taken from men’s minds. There is more, even under the sun.

Third, show some respect. Learn to honor that which is honorable, and flee from the cynical, the lowbrow, the snarky and the knowing. When all your life is mockery you make a mockery of your life.

Fourth, take some time off. No one ever went to their grave wishing they had put in more hours at work. Bodies need rest, real rest. Yes, work hard, but give yourself a break..

Fifth, do as you are told. We all, by nature, are rebels. And so are the people in authority over us, whether in our families, in our work, or in our community.  Everyone has their weaknesses, including those above you in authority. Whatever you might gain in breaking the law, in defying your boss you lose in worrying about getting caught. I know it’s silly to stop at that red light in the middle of that cornfield. But the time you think you’ll shave off your trip will be counterbalanced by having to be hyper vigilant watching for the state police.

Sixth, be nice to people. Don’t hurt them, yell at them, gossip about them. I know people can be jerks. After all, I know me, and I know you. But we can still keep from hating each other, can’t we? Being bitter towards anyone, whether friends or foes, is eating poison and hoping they suffer.

Seventh, and this is a tough one, love on your spouse. You promised to forsake all others. Keep that promise, not just for your spouse’s sake, but for your own. I know how wonderful the mystery dance can be. But I can tell you that everyone who ever stepped out lost more than they gained, even if they were never caught. It destroys you, because it is breaking the most solemn vow you are able to make.

Eighth, don’t take what isn’t yours. Don’t go on the dole and steal from your neighbors through the proxy of the state. Don’t cheat on your taxes, or your time card. Don’t borrow stuff and fail to return it. And don’t steal from your future by constant debt. I know it’s in my holy book, but one need not believe the Bible to see the wisdom of owing no man anything save the obligation to love.

Ninth, tell the truth. There is so much less to keep track of, so much less shame. And you’ll find it rather a pleasant thing to have a reputation for truth telling. And while this may surprise you I would insist that it is also vital that “to thine own self be true”principle. Here I don’t mean the sophomoric notion that you must be true to who you are, but instead that you must be true toward you about you. Tell yourself the truth about yourself. Self-delusion is deadly, for it’s a box we can’t escape from.

Finally, be grateful. I’ve never known anyone, Christian or not, who grumbled and was happy. I’ve never known anyone either who was grateful and unhappy. If you follow the ninth suggestion, you will know that what you have is well more than you deserve.

You won’t, of course, be able to do all this. I don’t do all this. Only one person ever did all this. And He solved our inability by suffering the Father’s wrath that is due to us. Better than all the above is that you would confess your failure, and cling to that Man. He has promised us a wonderful life, a life filled with death and heartache, persecution and broken relationships. And Him.

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