Allow me to share a little story I read. I have taken the liberty to modify the original story somewhat to fit in with the content of my article.
An angel of the Lord appeared to five wise men, asking each man the same question. “If you could acquire one trait that would make you a better person, what would it be?” Only one of you will be granted your request.
The first man answered, “I would like to have eyes to see the good in others.”
The second man said, “I would like a good friend, for man cannot bear the burdens of life alone.”
The third man answered, “I would like a good neighbor, for it is good to help one another when one of us has a need.”
The fourth man answered, "I would like to have the foresight to see what will come from my actions.”
The fifth man said, “I would like to ask for a good heart.”
The angel of the Lord responded, “All of you have carefully given me your best answers, but there is one whose request is the wisest of them all. It is the man who asked for a good heart, for all of your requests are included in his. The angel went on to explain:
"The honor and respect of your brother, your sister, your neighbor or your friend, should be just as important to you as your own. What belongs to your neighbor should be just as important to you as your own. Live with kindness and love, for one day you will stand before God, and you will be repaid in like manner. How you treat others is the basis for which you will one day be judged. Repent before your death. Do you know on which day you will die?" None of the men had an answer for that question. The angel said, “Then should you not take advantage of today and repent? For perhaps tomorrow you will die. Should you not let each day be a day in which to take advantage of the time that you have, and live in a perpetual state of mercy towards others and repentance towards God?”
[I altered the above story to re- tell it here, but the original story, using five rabbis, came from www.chabad.org/library, taken from Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Two. It also referenced www.meaningfullife.com. All copyright information is credited to the author and/or Chabad.org as used in the original version of their story.]
Every time we turn on the news or scan through any form of social media, it is filled with reports of anger, protests, riots, and people treating each other with hatred and injustice. People are busy passing judgments and speaking unkindly about others, and much of it is based on fake news. Taking in these negative reports is like slowly being poisoned. It is stripping us of compassion. It creates in us an evil eye that looks for wicked intentions rather than seeing the good in others. If we focus on the negativity in the news or other people’s evil reports, we allow evil inclinations to separate us from being good friends and good neighbors. Getting caught up in negative, angry, or selfish emotions creates bitterness, and bitterness creates spiritual blindness. People can no longer understand the consequences of their own negative actions. They also have no concept of eternal consequences for how they spend their time here on earth.
The pain that people feel…the bitterness, anger, the frustration with injustices and mistreatment, government oppression – all of it – is the result of a people who have failed to acknowledge their sin. Scripture says that those that try to hide their sin cannot prosper. This allows poverty and ruin to overtake them.
“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” Prov. 28:13
There is a story in Psalm 32 about David. When he tried to keep silent about his sin, it caused tremendous pain to his soul and his psyche. He was in a state of mental anguish until he finally decided to confess his sins to the Lord.
“When I kept silent, my bones grew old. Through my groaning all the day long –
For day and night, Your hand was heavy upon me: my vitality turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Ps. 32:3-5)
David learned an important truth: Confession relieves the soul of pain. 1 John 1:9 tells us why. When we confess our sin, God cleanses our conscience of the pain it has caused from carrying all that guilt, shame and toxic emotions. He cleanses us from unrighteousness so that once again we can be restored to right relationship with Him. David thanks God for his deliverance and preserving him from trouble. All of a sudden, the tone of Psalm 32 changes. The dialogue shifts from David being the one who is speaking, to God jumping into the conversation and speaking to David. God begins to tell David not to be stubborn like the horse or the mule that needs to have a bridle put in their mouth to lead them. He also reminded David that many sorrows come to those that act wickedly, but mercy surrounds those that put their trust in the Lord.
It is not an easy thing to escape the constant fake news, strife, and offense that the enemy constantly tries to stir up. Friend, don’t let hatred be birthed in your heart towards others because it is the enemy’s way to pull you over to his side. Hatred does not begin with anger, violence or despising others. It begins with apathy, indifference towards what others are going through, and allowing your love for others (and God) to grow cold. It comes from an evil eye – the lens by which we see the rest of humanity and the world around us, looking for wrongdoing to judge rather than looking for the good in others. When this happens, the enemy has succeeded in placing us under a curse, for the spiritual laws of sowing and reaping is always in effect, and God is bound to honor His word.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:1)
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return.” (Gal. 6:7)
“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Luke 6:31
Our nation is in a time of spiritual emergency. Even President Trump has declared Sunday as a Day of Prayer. In a time of spiritual emergency, no one is excused from prayer. We all live in this nation and share the good, the bad and the ugly of what is going on around us. Even in the midst of tragedies and trials, the world is still full of the goodness of God. We see it in the tender kiss of a mother loving her child. We see it in the strong arms of those that have rushed to help the flood victims in Texas. We see the love of God poured out in the lines of people bringing donations to help those in need, or simply the kindness of a stranger lending something in need to their neighbor. We see acts of compassion in those that rescue strays, abandoned or orphaned animals. Even in those we find difficult to like, or those that seem impossibly bent on doing the wrong things, there is something good. The question is, "Are we looking for it? Or are we looking for something to judge and criticize?" Offended people look for someone or something to criticize. Friend, if that's you today, and you're feeling offended with someone - even those in politics or others that you don't even have a personal relationship with - there is something there that needs to be dealt with. It's robbing you of peace, positive thoughts, and it's robbing you of being able to see the good in the world around you. Bring it before God and confess that sin. Let the blood of Jesus cleanse your heart and mind so that you can have a more positive outlook because if you don't, you end up hurting yourself. God's love and goodness are all around us every day. Let's remember to look for the good in others!
God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in mercy. When people genuinely and truly repent, He responds with kindness. Blessings are restored. Productivity returns. Even the agriculture gets blessed. All He is looking for is a proper response. Confess your sins. Cleanse your heart. Treat others the same way you want to be treated. It’s not complicated. Remember the story of the five wise men. Ask God for what is most important: a good heart.
I confess my sins before You today. I haven’t always chosen to see the good in others. I have failed to judge myself by Your standard, and I’ve judged others by what I’ve seen or heard – what constitutes as fake news in Your eyes. Forgive me. I have no right to judge anyone. I don’t want to reap from judgments I’ve sown against others. Please let the power of any negative words I’ve spoken against others be broken in Jesus name. Help me to be a good friend, a good neighbor, (a good spouse and parent). I confess I have not always treated others right. Forgive me for not treating others with the same honor or respect I want for myself. Please cleanse me from unrighteousness and relieve my soul from pain, guilt, and shame that comes from unconfessed sin. I ask You for a good heart: to see the good in others. To be a person of integrity, compassion and live in truth. Help me to have the foresight to see the consequences of my actions. Guard my heart so that I am not easily angered or offended, and when I feel that way, help me to be quick to forgive and let go of any negative emotions. In Jesus name. Amen.