This summer, while my in-laws were visiting, my mother-in-law offered to clean my silver coffee service that had been my Grandma’s. This coffee service sits on display in my china cabinet in a protected environment, but still over time the silver and the oxygen react to make it go from the shiny silver it should be to this grimy and tarnished coffee service that it shouldn’t be. This is not something I put on my list of things to do every day, so I am happy she willingly offers to clean it for me periodically when she comes to visit.
The tarnishing of my silver coffee service did not happen overnight. It is a slow progression with a reaction between the oxygen and the silver. Slowly, without even noticing the change in the silver, I will look at it one day and think how dirty and tarnished it has become. It has not been used. It has only sat there in the china cabinet collecting dust and reacting to its environment.
The Christian life and the silver coffee service have some similarities.
- We could say that the oxygen is similar to the sin that is around us. We can either react to it in a positive or negative way. Obviously, the silver is an inanimate object not being able to react intentionally, but we as Christians can choose how we will respond to the sin that is around us. I can choose to forgive when someone hurts me or I can become bitter over the hurt. The act of forgiveness is intentional. Bitterness can also be intentional as we choose not to forgive. As we experience the many hurts in life, we choose which direction to take. The route of forgiveness keeps our hearts soft to the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit, no tarnishing. The route of bitterness leads to a hardened heart that is tarnished by a continual burden of sin it bears. What about pride and selfishness? These are internal fleshly desires that we must continually be aware of. These are easily seen by the words that come from our mouths and our actions. A humble, selfless person intentionally looks for ways to meet the needs of others and ways to encourage others. A selfish and proud person becomes tarnished by their sin and becomes so ugly, others do not want to be near them.
- If I used my silver service every week, it would get polished every week. Lack of use causes it to be tarnished. As a Christian, God has given me talents and abilities that He wants me to use for His glory and for His kingdom. If I do not use them, I become tarnished. God did not create me to sit in the china cabinet so people can look and admire me when they walk by. He created me for use. I may get a little dirty. I might have stains. (If I would use my coffee service every week it would become stained with tea not coffee.) I might have a dent. I might need to forgive. I might need to swallow my pride. I might need to let go of my rights.
Jesus did not come to earth to be put in the china cabinet and be looked at. He came to serve and to sacrifice. He came to seek out people that needed living water, healing, raised from the dead, forgiveness of sins, eternal life through His death. He came not to get, but to give.
Is there someone who keeps causing you pain? Choose every day to take the offense to the Lord and let Him help you forgive so the bitterness does not tarnish your heart and your life. Are you sitting in the china cabinet so you don’t get tarnished? Open the door, jump off the shelf, and fill yourself up with tea and then go pour it out on a thirsty soul in need. What are you good at? Are you using that skill to further God’s kingdom? Or are you not willing to share because you might get stained, dented, and dirty with use? Isn’t that better than being tarnished from misuse?
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” I Peter 3:8