Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
- Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
Last week, I told you that putting the thought patterns described in this passage into practice has enabled me to find peace even in very difficult times. Since writing that, I’ve been asking myself what I meant by it - what such thought patterns actually look like day to day. A large part of what it looks like to dwell on what is true, noble, right, etc. is simply gratitude. In recent years, I find myself increasingly struck by the many, many good things in my life and in awe that I am so blessed. Another part of thinking about what is excellent and lovely is how I’m learning to think about other people. When I was younger, I spent an inordinate amount of time worrying about what other people thought about me and also an inordinate amount of energy feeling hurt when others didn’t seem to see me the way that I would like. My default method of coping with these feelings was to attribute the problem to the other person. If someone didn’t like me or think well of me, it was probably because of their own poor character and distorted values and desires.
An interesting thing about being a pastor is that it is entirely incompatible with the pattern of self-focus and blame that I’ve just described. It is impossible to help other people follow Jesus while making negative assumptions about their motives. Instead, I am forced to spend a lot of time listening, trying to understand where people are truly coming from, praying to see them as God sees them, and asking God to bless them. The more I do this, the more I find I like people and see in them admirable qualities and praiseworthy motives. And on top of that, the more I see the good in other people, the less I worry about how they might see me, and the more I feel at peace in my own spirit and in the world. Let's think in this way together.
Pray with me if you will,
“Jesus, open my eyes to see the people around me more clearly. Teach me to love them the way that you love them. Make me quick to see what is beautiful and slow to see what is ugly. And help me to put into practice in my own life the good that I see in others. Amen.”
Love in Christ,