When I’m around critical people, I become critical. When I’m around negative people, I develop the nasty habit of complaining. However, I’m really not critical and I can’t stand complaining. I generally tend to look on the positive side of things. So why can’t I help others to be encouraging, instead of letting their negativity bring me to criticism?
I’m learning that it’s not that I have to change the culture. It’s that I have to let God change me.
By nature, we are all critical. It’s a fruit of the flesh, as described in Galatians 5:19-21 (NIV):
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Although I am joyful, the positivity I displayed was a defense mechanism (I’ll talk more about that another day!). True joy is a fruit of the Spirit, as seen after the passage cited above:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Humans in and of themselves are critical and negative. God wants to grow joy and love in me. As I do that, I learn to appreciate the culture around me by focusing on their strengths instead of what I need to fix. The Bible says that we are ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors for Christ:
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).
When God reconciles us to Himself, He charges us to bring others to Him as well. We admit that we need to change (which is super hard to do!) and we humbly accept God’s sanctification in us, which involves making us more like Christ. Then, we meet people where they are, and we are the go-between in our spheres of influence.
Ultimately, my desire to change the culture stems from spiritual pride. Yes, God’s desire is for us to become more like Christ, but at our core, our desire is to improve ourselves to be the best version of ourselves. I demand control in the world, because I think I know what’s best for the world. When we surrender to God and to His plan for us, we truly do become the best version of ourselves. Maybe not the skinniest, smartest, or strongest, but the version of ourselves that reflects Christ. Only then can we change our culture.
When I graduated high school, a bunch of my friends wrote in my yearbook that they saw God in me. Part of me was wondering, Don’t I have any other good qualities besides being a Christian? But now that I’m older, I’m thankful that I was a light in the darkness. I’m thankful that my friends believed that when they talked to me, they would be learning more about God.
Truthfully, after nine more years of studying the Bible, going on several missions trips, working at in a church office, and being involved in church, I definitely feel closer to God and to my church community, but I don’t know how much of a witness I am to those who do not know the Lord. I wonder if it’s because I think I’ve gone to the next “level” of my Christian faith, where I have fallen into the trap of believing I can be a witness for God’s glory without God’s help. God has shown me my own pride, and I’ve fallen on my face, both in humility and in humiliation. When I come out of that deep place, you’ll be sure to read about it!
I started this post talking about how to change the people around me. To be honest, I don’t believe that’s my job. Lights don’t change people. They only point people to the One who can change the world.