I run on coffee. My children know that if you are going to try to get away with anything, you attempt it before Mom has had her second cup. After that, she is functioning and you will get busted.
Now as any avid coffee drinker knows, the essential piece of equipment in their lives is a good travel coffee mug. Mine happened to spend an extra day in the van recently and since it still had about a teaspoon of coffee left in the bottom (not sure how that happened), it was slightly unpleasant when I rescued it Sunday morning. However a quick zip by the sink with some hot water and dish detergent made all right again in the world and we still made it to church on time.
But it brought to mind my seventh grade math teacher. Mr. M was unique. He talked “coon” hunting almost daily, always used colored chalk and then scratched his ears making them technicolor, and he had a white coffee mug that he used all day every day. He might have washed it once a month. We only knew the mug was white because of the outside of it. The inside would get layer after layer of coffee stain on it making it darker and darker as the days went by. Toward the end of the year we noticed that even when he DID wash it, it still had a tan tinge to it.
I couldn’t help but see a parallel to sin in our lives. A small sin committed and left unconfessed, makes minor trouble for us. But a heartfelt confession and renewed determination to allow The Spirit control, and God can clean that sin and wrong right out of our lives.
Then there are the habitual sins that we engage in that quite honestly, aren’t hurting anyone else and therefore shouldn’t really matter. So we gossip a little. Maybe the occasional curse word slips out. We criticized our spouse, child’s teacher or neighbor a little harshly. These little habit sins pile up and become a stain on our testimony. What we consider no biggie is now what other people think of us when they see us. They know we go to church because we are seen there every Sunday but then they see our actions and the inside is revealed.
Now we can get away with this as long as we want. Ok, as long as other people are willing to allow us to get away with it. Mr. M’s wife eventually got her hands on that coffee mug. I’m not sure how she did it but she got it back to white – ok, that or she just bought him a new one. Either way, the old stained coffee mug was gone.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.
Now I personally feel like Paul went about this backwards so I will start at the end and back up. Each person is responsible for their own spiritual well-being – just like Mr. M should have been responsible for washing his coffee mug. I can fall into the sin of sarcasm quickly and it recently caused a problem for me. I offended a friend because she didn’t understand me as being sarcastic and therefore took my comment personally and was hurt. Note to self: let your yes be yes and your no be no. If I can’t get a grip on my own sarcasm, I have no room to go to another brother or sister in the body and ask them to correct theirs.
Bear one another’s burdens. I can pray for my spiritual siblings as they war with sarcasm because I know how challenging controlling that tongue and attitude can be. I don’t have to participate with them to understand and help them try to overcome. I can pray and share scriptures that help me.
If I should ever get this snarkiness under control, I have an obligation going forward to LOVINGLY and GENTLY, go to one who may be struggling and help them through. If I see a friend battling with surrendering control of certain issues to God, I must first examine myself, do my research (is this really a scriptural issue or is this my opinion?), pray for a spirit of love and gentleness and THEN and only then if the Lord has given me peace, approach my friend.
Just like Mrs. M had to intervene with the coffee mug, we have an obligation to one another to hold and be held accountable. Sometimes that requires an intervention. Sometimes that requires a full surrender to the only One who can make us new.
Now drop back to the last verse.
The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.
This doesn’t mean a portion of the profits from your “Conquer Sarcasm in 30 Days” DVD series. It means, when a spiritual sibling (I like that!) has drawn your attention to a problem, and you manage to conquer it through Christ, and you see your testimony and faith stronger as a result, say thank you! Share that incredible news with your “mentor” and allow them to rejoice with you!
We are all one body and as such when one part stumbles, we all stumble. As one part rejoices we all rejoice! Raise your mugs in a toast to THAT!