It’s not exactly a secret that we are in the last of the last days. But, it’s one thing to read the descriptions from Matthew 24 and nod your head. It’s quite another to experience it in living color. Matthew 24:12 says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Iniquity (or lawlessness) is immoral or grossly unfair behavior, and it has always been around. One difference here lately is that society has gained an entirely new set of rules with COVID 19 to add to the ones, written and unwritten, we already had. More rules equals more rule breaking — and more opportunities for people to be upset no matter where you land on the COVID 19 debate. I had an experience this week just trying to do a little shopping that had me angry and struggling to find the appropriate response as a child of God. On hindsight, I came up with 3 things I can remind myself in order to keep my love hot the next time I’m in a situation in which iniquity abounds.
Shopping is Supposed to Be Fun
I have always loved shopping at thrift stores, and Texas Thrift is my all-time favorite. It’s like a big treasure hunt to find good, quality items for pennies on the dollar, and usually the searching is half of the fun. But like a lot of stores have done in response to COVID 19, my store had changed since the last time I had gone there. There was a new set of rules and regulations that customers were expected to follow and cashiers were ready to enforce.
Now there was one door for entry and one for exit, directional arrows on all of the aisles, big blue boxes to indicate where to stand while in line, and giant glass partitions between customers and cashiers. Dressing rooms were closed because of the new restrictions, and everyone was, of course, expected to wear a mask. An announcement kept coming over the loud-speaker stressing the need to keep our masks on and stay 2 cart lengths apart for social distancing.
I followed the arrows, tried to avoid people, and stayed obediently inside the blue boxes upon check out. When I got near the front of the line, I heard the cashiers yelling at people, “Next in line, please!” I thought to myself that when it was my turn, I would be paying attention and ready to move to the cashier to save the person from screaming. Kind of like watching the red light to be ready to go on green. So, when I got to the front blue box and the person in front of me left, I started walking toward the free cashier.
A Rude Comment
She scowled at me over her mask. “You should have waited until I called you. I have to get change.” Whelp. Okay, then. I looked behind me. Someone else was now inhabiting my blue box. There was no going back, but no going forward either. The other cashier was still busy. I just sort of hung out in the middle of everything, feeling a frustrated, angry heat come over me. With all the new rules and the cashier’s rudeness, I was over the whole trip. I even thought about leaving the cart with everything in it right there. But I was an ambassador for Christ, I told myself. I had to act like it.
After a few painfully vulnerable minutes in the middle of no-man’s land, I saw the girl return. The coldness was radiating as much from her stare as the frosty new water bottle she had in her hand. But just then, the other cashier bellowed, “Next in line, please!” I had a moment of decision. Should I stay and give the rude one a piece of my mind at how she was treating a customer? Should I try to explain that I was only trying to help? Or, should I let it go and pick the other cashier whom I knew from previous visits was a sweet Christian lady with a terrific attitude. I chose the latter.
A Spirit at Work
But just as I reached the other lady’s counter and the hunk of glass between us, I felt the ugly spirit up close. “Let’s go, let’s go!” She said, snatching at the clothes I had started to pick out of the basket. “Get that stuff up here, and let’s get this done!” She seemed agitated, upset. She said something about only getting a short lunch before turning her attention to yell at a woman behind me who was cluelessly about to exit the wrong door.
The normally perky and positive woman was completely wound up. Whatever was happening in that store with the two cashiers had to be a spiritual thing, and I had almost been swept up in it all. I checked myself and tried to make her smile as she finished ringing me up. I could feel her tension release, if only a little, as I waved and told her to have a blessed day.
As I left the store with my bag, it occurred to me that every person in that store had showed up that day after having been marinating in a soup of news and social media. We are all so divided over everything now. There is party politics, racial inequality and the response to it, statue/monument preservation or destruction, police department funding or defunding, foreign affairs, and a vast array of disputed COVID 19 laws and rules, just to name a few.
The media screams DANGER in big red letters, telling people that they will lose their country, lose their rights, lose their lives if they don’t do x, y, or z. People argue online, fuss and fret with each other, and then show up to their jobs carrying all that tension with them. They are sick to death of other people’s bad behavior (always putting aside their own) and so deeply afraid. It wears on people day after day, and many are starting to feel like they just can’t take it anymore. They are on edge and ready snap at the least provocation.
Not only that, but for the first time ever that I can think of, there was a distinct possibility that – depending on their home situations — neither cashier had even seen an actual smile all day. An eye crinkle just isn’t the same. Whether you’re on the giving end or the receiving end of a smile, studies have shown that there are all kinds of mental and emotional benefits to smiling; it just makes life better. But now everyone’s mouths are covered, making voices harder to hear and details of body language more difficult to interpret.
Add the giant glass partitions, blue boxes, and rules about staying six feet apart, and it reminds me of the childhood insult, “I wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot pole.” Now, we’re all walking around with imaginary six-foot poles. Instead of looking at people as having feelings and stories of their own, we see potential disease carriers. It’s harder to have empathy for human beings when we are going to such great lengths to avoid them.
Don’t Let Your Love Wax Cold
As children of God, we can be affected by the same nasty situations and evil spirits that prey on the world. It’s up to us to recognize them and take authority in Jesus’ name. Like Ephesians 3:17 says, we must be rooted and grounded in love since we, ourselves, know the love of Christ Jesus. We do that by staying focused on Jesus and the good works He has prepared for us to walk in. We also must limit our exposure to negativity, instead filling our minds with what is good like it says in Philippians 4:8. Above all, we must study the Word of God every day, renewing our minds and endeavoring to conform our lives to what we find there.
In the heat of the moment, though, here are three things we can remember that will help us keep our love from waxing cold.
1. Remember Who You Are
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”1 Cor 6:19-20
We may not be able to help the knee-jerk responses we have to some of the situations we encounter in life, but we are responsible for what we do with them once they surface. Paul says it this way in Romans 7:8a, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” Flesh is powerful, and even the very best Christians lose their battle to it sometimes. How much more so the world that doesn’t even try to reign it in? But for Christians, according to Galatians 5:24, our flesh must be crucified. And, 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we must take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
But how do we diffuse the fire ball inside us when things just make us so angry and situations simply aren’t fair? How can we continue to be kind when others are rude? How do we love people who are so maddening and unlovable? For me, the only thing that does it is to remember that I am not exactly a peach all the time myself. Despite my annoying, selfish, bad behavior, God always treats me with love. And that same God who IS love lives inside me. He gives me the power to love like He does if I will just turn away from my baser instincts and believe what the Bible says. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. I am no longer in bondage to flesh and sin. I can choose to conform to Him instead of the world.
2. Remember Who They Are
“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.”Job 14:1-2
Right after I first got saved for real, I believe God gave me a truth about how we treat other people in this life. See, every person we come into contact with is going one of two places when he/she dies: heaven or hell. If he/she is going to heaven, treating that person poorly would be hurting your own family in Christ, someone with whom you will spend eternity. If the person is headed for hell, you would be adding misery to someone who already has enough problems without a child of God adding to them. It is an absolute truth but one that I had never considered before but will always remember.
But what can you do for someone who is upset and caught in his/her own spiritual storm? Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” I think changing our focus from how we are feeling to how to make someone else feel better is the answer here. Sometimes we can just refuse to allow ourselves to be caught up in the negativity. Others will pick up on our calm demeanor and smile in the face of anger and be soothed. Sometimes, like Proverbs 15:1 says, a kind comment will help. Sometimes the only thing you can do is get out of the way to avoid provoking someone more.
3. Remember Who God Is
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.”Psalm 145:8-9
God is love, and He is merciful and gracious. He is also coming back soon. We must keep our focus where it belongs: on our relationship with Him. We can’t get sidetracked or allow the devil to bait us into sin. God lives inside us, and we are not our own. I love this verse from Ephesians 3:20-21. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Did you catch that? His power works IN us. All we have to do is believe and submit to doing things His way.
Keep Your Love From Growing Cold
The Bible is right when it said that when iniquity abounds the love of many will wax cold. But, you and I don’t have to be one of them. We can keep our love hot by focusing on Jesus and saturating our minds with good things including the Word of God. We can also remember just who exactly the players on the stage are. As Christians, we belong to God and have His power inside us. People are fallible and need mercy just like we do, and God is powerful in us and coming back soon.
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