Behavior Modification – FAIL
The old joke goes that a bride was nervous about her wedding day. She went to the minister and explained that she didn’t feel she could go through with it. The minister, being an understanding person said, “When you get to the back door, just focus on the aisle. As you get to the aisle, just focus on the altar. When you get to the altar, just look into your soon-to-be-husband’s eyes and focus on only him.” Well the big day came and as she was walking down the aisle, all of the people in the pews were in shock as they heard her muttering under her breath, “aisle, altar, him….aisle, altar, him…..aisle, altar, him”
Obviously we can look at this joke and laugh. But how often do we look at our spouses….or friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and families….and say to ourselves, “I can’t wait to change them, then they will be better.”
As a parent, I find myself thinking that quite a lot. I want to change my daughter’s behavior to be more focused. I want to change my son’s behavior to be more loving and understanding. But I cannot truly change anyone’s behavior. That is for God to do. I can only endeavor to change myself.
Let’s look at the Bible and see what it says about trying to change others.
Proverbs 26:17: Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.
This is a clear warning of staying out of the business of others. What I take away from this is that we are not to try to change others with risk of being brought into a quarrel.
How about 1 Peter 4:15? But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s affairs.
Woah!! If we are trying to change others and their affairs, then we are on the same level as a murderer or thief or evildoer!
So if we are not to try to change others, what are we to do? How are we to disciple? How are we to spread the Good News? Nowhere in any of those passages does it say to not share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. We are called to it. We are commanded to do it!! Matthew 28:19 is loud and clear. But forcing others to accept it is wrong. God gave us choice for a reason, we cannot take that choice away from others simply because it is the wrong choice.
I will go on my soapbox here. I believe abortion is wrong. I believe homosexuality is a sin. I believe tolerance placed on the altar above absolute morality is the beginning of the downfall of a nation and a people.
But if I go to you and explain what I believe, the choice is still yours as to whether you believe it or not. And then what is my recourse? Matthew 22:36 is very clear in this: [Jesus], which is the greatest commandment in the law? And He said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depends all the law and the prophets.”
Love does not mean that we change ourselves to believe that which is wrong (such as abortion, sex before marriage, homosexuality, etc…) but that we do not exclude people from our lives just because they believe otherwise. I will love each and every person and will spend time explaining my beliefs to them every chance I get. But I will not force them to believe what I do. I can’t. That is impossible. The only One who can bring change is the Holy Spirit. And, God-willing, the more people see your loving attitude and how Christ has changed you into a mature, loving person then they will be more open to changing into that person as well.
And it needs to be said here. I DO believe that people will go to hell when they die just the same that I believe people will go to heaven. But only those who believe in Christ will go to heaven. All the rest will go to hell. Let me make this very clear. God is not saying that our sins will keep us from heaven. Only our lack of faith in Him. It is true that once we become a Christian that we are changed and can never go back to our old sinful lifestyle, but that happens over time. Paul even said that our race is a marathon, not a sprint. Race is given to us from the Greek word “ag-ONE,” from which we get our English word “agonize.” This is not just any race, but it is a race that will take us out of our comfort zone in order to win it.
If we truly love Christ then that will show in maturity daily, weekly, yearly, and ongoing. If we don’t show that maturity, then our hearts will harden and we will lose this race and give up our seat in glory.
But, I want to be very clear, I am not trying to force you to believe what I do. I am simply informing you of the consequences of lack of faith. Regardless, I will still love you and enjoy your company.
And this is why I love you – you actually believe what Jesus taught. Love thy neighbour.