Others Devotional, volume 17

Step Away From the Mirror by Marissa Carpenter

Scripture:Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not pay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened. But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.1 Peter 3:8, 13-18

Have you ever thought to yourself, Man, I love my friends. We get along super well, and they’re really fun to hang out with. Have you ever considered why you like your friends so much? I’m certain you’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together”. Chances are you have a lot in common with your friends. You have the same taste in movies. You share hobbies and talents. Yet, what do our friendships say about us? More so, what does it say about the human race? That falling into easy patterns is a common attribute among all human beings. But what about people who aren’t like you? We tend to shy away from those who are different from us, because they represent the unknown.

In middle and high school years, it’s easy to clump into cliques, and into groups that offer no friction or challenges because we like to remain homogenous. There’s nothing out of sorts within our friends, and you generally agree on everything. This makes life easier. You find people so much like you that sometimes it’s like looking in a mirror. The old Comfort Zone. It’s safe. It’s warm. It’s familiar.

Confession time: in adult years, this trend of similar friend groups doesn’t tend to change unless you are markedly conscientious about the way that you find, make and keep friends, and the way you treat your conversations. Instead of speaking with meaningless words that center around yourself, start asking questions that center around others. Ask bigger questions that might not have easy answers. Listen to understand, instead of chiming in the moment there’s a pause.
But you can consider this a challenge. Find different people to befriend. Have a conversation with someone you wouldn’t have otherwise. Make this thing called a life a bit bigger of an adventure, and take some measured risks—to get to know someone’s point of view without belittling it, or interrupting (listen to hear); make a point to understand what makes them tick, why they do what they do, and why they have specific viewpoints that maybe feel foreign to you. Because when you start asking the right questions, others will open up to you and give you an insight into their lives. And you can do the same with them. And when we all start understanding others, we make decisions based not just on how the outcome will affect us, but how it will impact others.  “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18a) Peter isn’t talking about how Christ died because he wanted to be perceived as super-cool. He did it thinking of others.

Let’s explore this a little further. God didn’t decide to save the world from sin by waving a magic wand over the earth and defeating death. He sent his Son. He sent his Son down as a baby, to live out his days in the earthly shell of a human being. To feel everything we feel. To hear and see and taste and touch everything we do. God is omniscient, yes. He already knows everything we do. But this incredible gesture of 1) giving up his son and 2) allowing Jesus to suffer much more than any human being ever should, was an example of the greatest empathy—God set the stage for us to be like Christ, and to be a friend to others. Others that are similar to us, yes, but also others that aren’t necessarily like us. Others that we might not like very much.

Well, do yourself a favor. Step away from the proverbial mirror. Consider what you might see if instead of staring at your own reflection, you looked out the window, or stepped outside to enjoy everything (and everyone) around you.

God, give us eyes to see beyond ourselves. Help us reach out to forge new friendships and ask bigger questions, all while spreading your love to others through our words and actions. Continue to remind us of your selfless gift of salvation, and let us share it with everyone around us. Amen.

About the Author:
Marissa Carpenter is the Director of Marketing and Enrollment at Central Valley Christian. She is married to Aaron, her husband of 6 years, with a tubby 17-month-old, Charlie. She enjoys strong, black coffee, wordsmithing, playing piano, singing, and pretending she hates puns.

Originally published on January 24, 2017.

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