We were having a conversation about this child at school.
To say he was unruly would be an understatement. It seems like it was his point of duty every day to disrupt. Sometimes verbally, but often physically. It didn’t bother him who he hit or hurt. And despite all of the problems he was bringing to the class and the threat to health and safety he was to the teachers, the school were seemingly powerless.
There was something about his behaviour that obviously had us as grown adults looking with disapproval, shaking our heads and tutting the system that allows such things to happen. As we were condemning such awful behaviour we got to look at ourselves a little and confessed that there were some times that the reckless, selfish manner that motivated this child was something that was in us. Scratching the surface a little deeper we acknowledged that the main difference between us and that child was that our upbringing and conditioning had not just informed us ‘right from wrong’, but gave us the tools to behave properly. Yet even there that behaviour sometimes suppressed what we really wanted to do or say.
Jesus exposes us when He teaches about faithful living for God being about more than behaviour and getting to the heart of the matter. That’s why He was as concerned about cultivating the desire inwards as much as he was acting out that desire.
Paul of Tarsus would go on further to make plain what was going on with the challenges of the things we suppress and sometimes allow to seep out because even when we say we don’t want to do it, we still end up doing it. We might not be as wild as the child, but nevertheless we can be even more destructive especially with our sophisticated, cultured and well-mannered facade.
The struggle is real. This is why what Jesus offers is not behaviour modification but new life. For all the words He utters, more than that is the Spirit in those words that fills us, lives in us, lives through us and transforms us so that those initial destructive desires of whatever manner that we seek to suppress are actually removed from our system and replaced with the life of God that reveals itself in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. That’s not a work of effort on our part primarily. That’s the beauty of the great exchange – His life in us, the old gone and the new has come.
It’s such a wonderful transaction that I genuinely need to be reminded that it’s actually happened. The transaction now means that there’s no need to suppress anything – leaving life in His hands and cooperating with His leading and depending completely on Him means it’s all about expression. The liberty the Spirit gives is to express life in the Spirit and the fruit that comes with that.
That wild child in the school might appear like a deviant and abnormal, but maybe he’s an expression of who we are when we don’t suppress the struggle within. Maybe he’s a point for prayer for him and for us that we can get instead of suppressing an old life, get in touch with the new life to express.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden