During a family gathering one of my now adult children said “it always hurt when you would say you were disappointed in me.” That admission was powerful and conveyed the very reason I would say that to any of my children when they did something that strayed from the values we were trying to teach them. I was disappointed in them because they chose to disregard the standard we had worked hard to instill in each of them.
I remembered that conversation as I was praying about how to approach the readings the church chose for us this weekend. I remembered it because by my expressing disappointment not only showed how deeply their failure affected me but also to learn how my disappointment affected their future choices.
Paul speaking to us today said “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption”. As a father I know it is possible to grieve over the wrong choices made by those we love. As a father my reaction to my children’s wrong choices was not one of anger or of a desire to punish. No, my reaction was more of deep grieving over their rejection of taught values.
No wonder Paul makes the comment about grieving the Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Romans Paul says,”…the Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16). Like my children, we would do anything to have God the Father look favorably on all we do and say. But since we are often only concerned about self, we will have those moments when we disappoint God. Paul says we can avoid disappointing God by not becoming angry, exhibiting fury, expressing bitterness and shouting at those who deserve our wrath. Instead, we are to be compassionate and forgiving. We are to be imitators of Christ.
I would add it is not good enough to daily try to imitate Christ. We were created in the glory and image of God. We are to “predestined to conform to the image of Christ” (Rom.8:29). Being compassionate and forgiving are not things we imitate. Instead they are the values and attributes of the glorious heritage of being sons and daughters of God.
It is no wonder why Paul in Romans 8 writes on this very topic. Let me quote you a few lines from Romans 8. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you”. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you”.
If we only make imitating Christ as the goal of our becoming disciples then we are totally dependent on ourselves to succeed. If we on the other hand we embrace the Spirit living within us we begin to allow that very Spirit to transform us. Paul understands that the only way for us to live a life pleasing to the Father is by allowing the gift of the Spirit to change us. . Why would we even attempt to live our Christian life by any other means other than under the transformative power of the Spirit? To do anything less is denying the power of God to work in us and that my brothers and sisters is the very thing that grieves God.
God promised that by the Spirit we would have our hearts transformed. God promised that it would be the Spirit who would write the law of God (values and attributes of being a child of the Father) on our hearts. It is the power of the Spirit at work in all who believe that frees us from the very things that drives us to disappoint the Father. It is the Holy Spirit at work in us that opens our minds and hearts to embrace all that God offers us.
Therefore let us like Elijah let us take what God has offered us to sustain us and find our way to be living in the presence of God.