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Things to Remember

Every once in a while I encounter reminders that we live in a world of people I don’t understand very well. I was using the restroom in a restaurant on Sunday afternoon when a young man walked in wearing the biggest earrings I have ever seen. I am not exaggerating when I say they were as big around as a breakfast biscuit. They were not the kind you attach to the ear either. He had obviously spent years diligently stretching his skin because his ear lobes were wrapped around the saucers. I didn’t mean to engage in an obvious double take but I couldn’t help myself. Before meeting this young man, I would have thought it impossible to carry a cell phone in your ear lobe but he could have done it.
I tried to hold back but I had to ask, “How long did it take you to be able to wear those?”
He clearly didn’t want to talk to a stranger about it because he just shrugged and replied, “I don’t know. A while, man.”
He acted like he was a little offended that I took notice but how could I not? They were huge and seemed to be screaming at me to respond. I would have loved to engage this young man in a long discussion about what made him want to change his appearance so dramatically but it was not the time or place. I left the restaurant thinking, there are a lot of people in this world who are very different from me. Some of these people’s choices are neutral and some are destructive. I am going to need wisdom for the rest of my life to know the difference.
In this regard, Paul gives insightful bullet points in Galatians 6:
• The goal is restoration. Everyone in the world needs a Savior. Everyone is insecure, insufficient, and inconsistent. The tendency of the heart is to wander away from Jesus and indulge the flesh. Therefore, one of life’s primary pursuits is to help others (and ourselves) get back on track. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (v. 1)
• Be compassionate first. We see behavior long before we see the condition of someone’s heart. I was tempted to reach quick conclusions about the man with the earrings because of his outward appearance. It is possible he has a rebellious spirit and will never submit to the authority of Christ. It is just as possible that he has a wounded soul and is crying out to be noticed by others who will love him. It takes a relationship and wise compassion to know the difference. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (v. 2)
• Live deliberately rather than reactionary. We all tend to decide who we are in reaction to others. If they love us, we are gentle and easy to get along with. If they get angry, we fire back or shrink away. If they are making bad decisions, we change our behavior to either join them in going off track or desperately try to manipulate them to turn around. When we do this, we empower others as we give them control of who we are. The healthier approach is to determine who we want to be based on how God made us and then be that person in all situations. Asking, “Who did God make me to be?” is much easier to live out than, “Who should I be in reaction to others?” “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” (v. 3-5)
It will take the rest of my life to figure out how to apply these principles in real scenarios but I know part of the process is to keep reminding myself of the goal. The next time I see outrageous earrings, I am going to remind myself that the real issues of life involve the heart.

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