We all have different tactics for dealing with rebellious, angry people. Some of us try desperately to change people’s behaviours and thoughts, and others pray desperately for God to do this. What should be our approach? I’ll explore both below:
Option #1 – Our efforts:
After 12 years of leading the Israelites, Nehemiah was at his wit’s end. Witnessing their disobedience, he admitted, “I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name…” (Nehemiah 13:25) Ouch! He was mad!
Nehemiah had invested years attempting to reform the Israelites. He travelled to Jerusalem to help them rebuild the city walls, and fend off attackers. He lead them in a ceremony of confession and restoration of their vows before God and, after all this was completed, returned to his job in Susa. When he came back for a visit, he found that all the reforms he instituted had fallen apart; the temple was neglected, the sabbath was being desecrated, people were intermarrying with foreigners and he was beside himself with frustration. Despite his best efforts, he simply could not “make them” behave because their hearts were not inclined towards obedience.
Option #2 – God’s efforts
Throughout the entire Old Testament, we read of God’s faithfulness and human fickleness. Time after time, people pledge their allegiance to God and then fall. Eventually, God unveils His solution to our disobedience. Ezekiel 36 records this promise: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
“You can’t and won’t obey”, He says, “So I will help you.”
Which option sounds better to you? If we expend our time and energy trying to change people’s thoughts, actions and behaviours we will end up frustrated like Nehemiah. If, however, we recognize that God needs to give people a new heart and new spirit before they can obey, our effort will be spent in prayer instead.
Why am I telling you this now? Because its Christmas time and Jesus came to make these changes possible. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus instituted a “new covenant” between God and man; a new relationship through which God’s law could be in our minds and written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and through which we could receive the Holy Spirit.
This Christmas, thank Jesus for coming to give you a new heart and a new spirit. If friends and family members are still rebelling against Him, don’t pull out their hair (!! :-)) but pray for them; they need a new heart too and only God can provide it.
Blessings on You
Pastor of Women
Want some more input and ideas this Christmas?
The Christmas Praise Night at Northview is tonight at 7:00 pm.
Come out for the Christmas Home Tour this Sunday from 1-6 pm.
Check out Rhonda Fast’s blog – a woman from our congregation who is also thinking and reflecting on Christmas.
This week’s podcast on “Christmas Angst” was recorded yesterday and will be posted soon. Check back to this page to find it!