Praying in the Circle of Kindness

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It’s so good to cry out to God together with you today. If you need an outline, raise your hand, and the ushers will get you one. If you would turn to 1 Peter 2, page 1015 if you’re using a seat Bible. If you don’t have a Bible, feel free to grab one from one of the seat backs near you. We want to make sure that what we teach comes from what God says, so we encourage you to find a Bible and turn to 1 Peter 2.

And it’s going to take us a little bit to get there because I have a couple of opportunities I want to share with you. One is, I want to first of all, honor Laura Baker. Laura Baker has been a part of our church since almost the beginning. She is such a gift to our church. Twenty-six years ago she, with the help of her husband Buzz, who is now with the Lord, started Prasso Ministries. The word “prasso” comes from the Greek word for practice. And her burden was to help people know who God is and what he says on a very practical level so they can practice, live out who God really is. This is a hope and healing discipleship ministry, and it is amazing what God has done through this ministry. It’s translated into five different languages. It’s used in a bunch of house churches in central Asia. There’s a teen Prasso. If you’ve never taken a journey through Prasso Ministries, I would encourage you. You could sign up starting February 4th. For twelve Tuesday evenings, starting February 4th. You can e-mail Laura. Her address is Laura@myprasso.com.

Second, people have asked for many years, “When are we going to take a trip to Israel?” We thought we’d just wait for the most hostile moment and plan a trip to Israel. It’s time. Time to go through Pilgrim Tours. The owner of that is a friend of Jim’s. We have reserved the best guide you can get. We plan to go February 2-11, 2021. That’s a year from February. I’m sure everything will be “shalomish” by then, perfectly peaceful. The cost will be around $3500 a piece. That’s why we wanted to give you a heads up so you can sell a kidney. We will limit the trip to about 46 people. I expect it to fill up fairly quickly. Starting this evening after the third service, you can get on our website and with a $300 deposit you can reserve your spot. You actually register through a link through Pilgrim Tours. But I am very excited to do this trip with many of you — to learn and worship together where Jesus walked.

Finally, we are starting today, as we’ve been practicing, a miniseries on Crying Out, and we’re praying that this would be more than just a series. That this would actually be an ongoing growing movement of prayer in our church, that we would continue to grow in our praying and crying out for ourselves, for our city, for our country, for what God is doing around the world. And we want to do a couple of things throughout the year. Obviously, we can’t do all this in this series, but throughout the year we want to help people who struggle with prayer. Because many Christians feel like, “Oh yeah, I need to pray more, and I need to pray better and I …”

But there are roadblocks — whether it’s your view of God or past bad experiences or your over-analytical mind, whatever it is, social fears, you don’t feel comfortable when praying with other people, you wonder what they’re thinking. Whatever it is, we want to provide some practical help throughout the year so that we can be liberated, because prayer is a huge gift from God for all his people to enjoy. We have no desire just to put our people on a guilt trip regarding prayer. That’s super easy. But what we want is to provide help. We want to provide opportunities. That’s what this series is. Let’s just cry out to him together, kind of what Allan Sherer did a few minutes ago in just shepherding us through becoming more aware of God’s presence — not just in church, but all week long. That is our burden. You’ll notice clumps of people up in front of the church praying for our services before the service begins in many of the services. You’re welcome to jump in that or initiate that. We are going to be continuing our greater works prayer meeting that we’ve been praying for almost 20 years specifically for you in these services and for all the people who are serving behind the scenes and teaching and shaking hands and doing everything that makes Sunday happen. We’re crying out for God’s greater works, doing what only he can do and you’re welcome to join that prayer meeting. We’re also doing things with the staff. Actually, we’re going to be talking with them in the next week or two about devoting mornings to prayer, specific prayer mornings for our staff. So, those are just a few examples. I can’t go into everything but crying out that God would not just give us a series on prayer but a trajectory for this year to be a year of crying out, a year of seeking his face and hearing his answer.

Today we’re going to start on a very personal level and a very specific kind of crying out, and that is learning how to cry out for Christ’s kindness when pressures are all around us not to cry out for his kindness or live in his kindness. Before we jump into that let me again ask for his help.

Lord, we need you. We need you. Even to hear from you, we need you. We ask that you would specifically, Lord, today teach us how to pray in your kindness when we are in the midst of what feels very unkind. When we are in a conflict or under pressure or perhaps in an election year, we are crying out. When we want to give someone a piece of our minds or when we want to withdraw or run, we pray that you would teach us how to stay, feed on your kindness. And then, Lord, to learn how to pass it on to others when we are nourished in it. We ask for your Spirit to help us. And we pray that even this act of preaching and listening would be worship to you, would be an expression of how much we need you. We thank you, Jesus, amen.

Are you familiar with the fight or flight response? Some people add a third: fight, flight, or freeze, which is kind of another form of flight. Fight or flight. It is the body’s reaction, instinctive reaction, to real or perceived danger. And when our brains pick up on a threat, there is an automatic cascade of physiological reactions. And I want to just talk about one example, because I’m not a scientist, so I have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll probably massacre it, but it fascinates me. One hormone out of about 30 that are released when you experienced fight or flight — epinephrine. This one hormone surges through your body, and it does different things depending on the need. When it goes to your heart, affects your heart, it actually speeds up the heart, expands the flow of blood directed toward the major muscles so that you can run, flee the danger. It goes to your lungs and expands your airway so that you can breathe more rapidly and freely so that you have air, much-needed air to flee. It goes to your brain, and your senses become more sharp — sense of sight, sense of hearing. It actually narrows your focus so you’re not distracted by anything but this threat.

But then, this is the part that’s fascinating, it goes to your digestive system, and it sends a message. “Hey, the banana that you just ate, that’s not priority number one.” It actually slows down. The guy beating down the door on your front door, that’s priority number one. Banana, priority number two. It slows down your digestive system. It actually slows down your immune system. Have you ever wondered why sometimes you get sick when you’ve been under a ton of pressure? Your immune system slows down, your digestive system. Systems that aren’t needed that second as priority slow down, other systems speed up — the same hormone. You talk about unbelievable design. Fight or flight.

But according to Ed Batista, some recent neuroscience research has shown that the fight or flight response and all the physiological reactions that occur when you’re physically in danger, also to some extent kick in when you experience a social threat. Now that is wild, isn’t that? You’re a teenager, you’re sitting in your room, doing your own thing. Your dad walks in and says, “Hey, Blake, we need to talk.” Fight or flight. You’re just getting your coffee, minding your own business. Your boss swings by. “Hey, I’ve been needing to talk to you. Can you come to my office?” You don’t even have to think about it, your mind is instantly racing with how valuable you are to the company. Or you might be instantly thinking about all his or her faults. How can you confront me? You stink at your job. Or you might want to just disappear. “I’m sorry, I’d love to come, but I feel sick, and I have to go home.” Your wife says to you, “Why don’t you ever really listen to me? You pretend to listen, but you don’t really listen.” Fight or flight. There is an instantaneous reaction, no matter how spiritual you are, that your mind, body can experience on different levels.

The question is, how quickly can we come out of that instinctive response and into a more helpful response? This is what we want to talk about today. And that is, how can we become more aware of our reflexive response? Do you know what I mean by our reflexive response? If I took my Bible right now, and I just decided I was going to throw it at you, you wouldn’t have to calculate what you were going to do. Most you wouldn’t think, “Oh, there’s an object moving toward my cranium at a rapid speed, so should I block it? Should I duck so the person behind me gets nailed? Or should I, like some of you would do, where’s a Bible.” Grab a Bible and throw it back. Let’s do this. Let’s start 2020 out with a with a Bible brawl. It’s just instinctive response. Some of you would duck. Some of you are duckers, some of you are blockers, some of you are fighters. Bring it! Let’s do it! And that’s our reflexive response. Christians have that just like non-Christians have that.

How can we become more aware of that, understanding what our natural inclinations are? And then, by the power of the Spirit, how can we respond more wisely and helpfully? And I’m thinking particularly in social contexts, these social threats that we were talking about, so that we can feed on and respond with the kindness of Christ. And we want to do this two ways. One, to soak in 1 Peter 2 – 3 so that we can tap into both the example and the power that comes through Christ. And then I want to end by giving you a tool that will hopefully allow us to practice this throughout the year.

First, 1 Peter 2. Let’s talk really quick about a little background. Peter wrote this letter most likely from Rome around 63 A.D. to Christians who lived in Asia Minor, which is today Turkey. These Christians were living in a Roman Empire that essentially functioned like some sort of theocracy. The gods and the rulers were intertwined. The imperial cult or the emperor worship mandated certain religious expectations. If you were going to climb the political ladder, you had to practice certain religious rituals. If you were going to go off to war, you would make certain sacrifices to the gods. And if you didn’t do these things, it would cost you.

And so, in chapter 2, the first half, Peter is explaining how important it is for Christians to know who you are. You’ve got to know who you are. You are, for example in verse 9,

“a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

You are sojourners in exile so live this out and glorify God in this way. But then he makes a rather controversial statement in verse 13.

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.”

Christians are not characterized by anarchism but rather, verse 16, we are to

“live as people who are free.”

Live as people who are free. And Peter was writing people who were slaves. He was writing to rich people and poor people, Jews and gentiles. And he says when you are in Jesus, you are free. Now, use your freedom not as a cover up for evil but living as servants of God. In the midst of this environment of intense idolatrous and immoral pressure, Peter is helping these believers to live faithfully, refusing to simply react with a visceral response but rather to have a prayerful response.

Well, where does this come from? Look at verse 21.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but he continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

What was Jesus doing when he was suffering? He was praying, entrusting himself to him who judges justly. When he was reviled, he did not give back what was given to him. When he suffered, he didn’t threaten. He refused to respond instinctively with either fight or flight. He was not a boomerang just giving back what was given to him. But (this is really important) he wasn’t a doormat either. This is really important for those of you who have experienced emotional abuse or physical or sexual abuse. We are not talking about just turning a blind eye to abuse. That’s not what he is talking about. Jesus was very intentional in what he is doing here.

“He [verse 23] continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. [verse 24] He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

He didn’t just provide us with an illustration or an example, he actually activates this way of living for us.

“That we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

This is a faith in Christ fueled kindness. Notice then Peter takes this rich theology of the cross and brings it to bear on the very mundane relationships of our lives. Verse 1, “Likewise, wives.” He is calling Christian wives to respond in the way of Christ to husbands who may not be living or even understanding the gospel. And then verse 7, “Likewise, husbands.” When your wife is confusing or less than honorable, you respond in an understanding way, putting her on a pedestal. That is, honoring her. You say, “Well I’m not married.” Verse 8,

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, [Notice those are the same words he just said about Jesus. “When he was reviled, he did not revile,” retaliate.] but on the contrary bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”

Then in verse 10 he quotes Psalm 34:12-16 to illustrate the fact that this is a better way of living, far better than your instinctive reactions.

Let’s talk about this non-reactive kindness. This faith-fueled kindness that flows from our calling, comes with a blessing and is enabled by our praying. Let’s talk about those three things one at a time. You’ll see Peter develops these three key elements.

Number 1, this way of responding, this way of living flows from our calling. Verse 9, “for to this you were called.” This calling forms bookends around the whole section, highlighting the fact that this is not incidental or optional. Notice back to 2:21, he said almost the same words, 2:21, “for to this you have been called.” Now, “for to this you were called.” If you have been called to Jesus, you have been called to kindness. And this is really big as we begin this new year. And I know everybody has different feelings about New Year’s resolutions, but what he’s talking about here is something much deeper than a mere resolution. You have the calling of Christ on you to live in this realm of kindness. And as a follower of Jesus, I desperately want to know what that is. And I know he’s going to put me in situations that are going to force me, draw out of me, both wrong reactions and, as he disciples me, right ones. So, this flows from our calling.

Secondly, it comes with a blessing. Look at verse 9, “that you may obtain a blessing.” As you bless others in this way, you actually obtain a blessing. Verse 10 he quotes Psalm 34:4, “Whoever desires to love life and see good days … ” Anybody in for that this year? Gary, go Gary! Gary wants to love life and see good days. I would encourage some of us to desire to love life and see good days.

“… Let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

Now in this context what he’s talking about is something very specific here. Evil is going to be thrown at you. Are you going to throw it back?  Is it going to stick? Is it going to stay and become part of you? Yes, evil comes from within us as well, but he’s talking about this specific context, how we respond. Verse 11,

“Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

That’s a non-reactive kindness. By non-reactive I don’t mean passive. It’s not merely a visceral, eye-for-eye kind of response. Do you realize that our culture is constantly marketing an image of blessing? They are selling blessing. You can try to buy it in stores. You can try to find it online. You can try to feed on it through media. What does blessing look like for our culture? Well, it looks young, attractive, financially successful. It looks popular. It looks inclusive. And it typically looks self-referential. What do I mean by self-referential? You be you. You be you, and you fight for you because no one else is going to fight for you. So, you be you, and then you fight for you, and then you will truly be blessed. The problem with that, that is a miserable, lonely existence. And Peter is warning us of the kind of fruit that comes from that kind of self-absorbed, superficial, false image of blessing. That’s not where blessing comes from. True blessing is found in the kindness of Christ.

It flows from our calling. It comes with a blessing. And then finally, it is enabled by our praying. It is enabled or empowered, enacted by our praying. Verse 12,

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, [If you’re in Jesus, you are righteous.] and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who evil.”

Now think back over the passage we just summarized. 2:23, what did Jesus do when he was on the cross? He “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Nobody else may understand but I know, Father, you do. I don’t even understand. But you understand. Jesus was praying. You see it in 3:5, wives are hoping in God. Verse 7, husbands who are not treating their wives with kindness have actually hindered their prayers. Why would he say that? He says, I don’t care how spiritual you look at church or how eloquent you are in your prayers. If you’re not living in this realm of kindness, you’re actually hindering your prayers. There is a direct relationship between our praying and living this kind of life that Jesus is talking about. He expands it in verse 12 to all of us. There’s only one way we can live like this. It cannot be generated by guilt or shame or religious obligation. That will never last. It is a deep awareness that the eyes of God are on me, his ears are open to my cry even in the midst of a very tense pressure-filled social situation.

Now how do we live that out in the mundane moments of our lives? I want to end by giving you a tool. And I’ve shared some of this in counseling situations. But if you would actually grab one out of the seat back near you. And if you’re on a front row, the people in the second row can make sure the front row people get one. Or if the pockets near you are empty, then the people down the row should be able to track down enough. Each person can have one. But if you could neatly put the leftovers back in for the third service so that they can be kind as well.

I first worked on a rough form of this years ago because I noticed in my life how quickly in a, shall we say, marital disagreement/marital discussion, how quickly I move out of the circle of kindness. That instinctive response, that reflexive response, I don’t even have to think about it. Before you know we’re talking about one thing and then woosh — out of the circle into the corner. So, what is the circle? The circle is summarized here with the Ephesians 4:32. By the way, is there anybody that didn’t get one? We have people who can pass them out if someone didn’t. We did great it looks like. Or there are people that just don’t want one because they don’t want to be kind. Just kidding.

Ephesians 4:32,

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, [and notice the energizing force to enable us to live this way is built right into the circle of kindness] forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”

You’re feeding on his forgiveness and kindness and you’re showing it to others. And you could put walking in the Spirit, bearing the fruits of the Spirit, all those things are different ways of saying the same thing. The first three chapters of Ephesians were all about “look at the kindness of God through Christ.” And now Paul is practically calling us to live that out.

But what I noticed in this reflexive response is how quickly I move out of the circle of kindness into these four corners of unkindness. And this is where these shapes can help. A simple circle and a square can be burned into our minds so that when we’re in a heated discussion, we can actually visualize moving out of this circle and actually moving back in.

Let me talk about the four corners of unkindness for a second. The first one, top left, denounce. To denounce is to attack the person rather than the problem. To denounce is different from simply expressing a concern. You can (please understand this) you can express a concern (and you actually have to) and still stay in the circle of kindness. Some people think that living in the circle of kindness means not having or giving an opinion. No, that is not biblical at all. You can share a concern, but you don’t have to attack the person.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re frustrated because someone in your family keeps sticking the dirty dishes in the sink and leaving them there, and they pile up. And you go to this unnamed family member, and you say, “Could you please, when you’re done with dishes, just rinse them off and throw them in the dishwasher?” Is that being unkind? No, that’s great. But how is that different from, “Hey, I’ve been noticing the dishes are piling up and it’s like you think the world revolves around you. You are such a stinking selfish person. Do you think I’m your slave? Like I’m going to come swooping in behind you and fix every mess you make?” Now what I’ve done there, even if all those things are true, what I’ve done is I’ve labeled that person self-absorbed, master, dominating everybody, thinking everybody’s your slave. And once you label them, they could just respond, “Hey, if I’m that, then just do the dishes. Why are we having this conversation? Slaves don’t question their masters.” It’s just an unhelpful direction to go down. The point is, you can share deep concerns without denouncing a person’s character or branding them.

Look to the right — defending. What I mean by that is not that you would never have convictions to defend. That is not it. You’ll notice if you keep reading 1 Peter 3, Peter actually says be prepared to give a defense. He’s talking about defend the Christian faith. We’re not talking about being a noodle or passive. But what this is, is a defensiveness that is far more concerned about excusing and/or blaming than it is about hearing a concern or responding in kindness. For example, you jump in the car. The car just has fumes in it. You have an important meeting you’ve got to go to. When you get back, having barely made it to the gas station, you go to this family member that might have left the car empty and you say, “Hey, do you know you left the car on fumes and I barely made it to the gas station, and I was late for an important meeting? Could you please at least leave a little fuel after you’re done driving?” Is that being unkind? No, that’s great. We all have to have those conversations. I’m giving home examples, but you can do this at work. You can do this as a life group. But let’s say the person responds when you share this fuel concern. And this person responds, “Yeah, but you leave your dishes in the sink.” And this is what characterizes a lot of our conversation. It’s like, “What? Weren’t we talking about gas in the car?” But see, if I can make you look as bad as I look, then I look okay. Immediately when a concern is shared to be defensive is rather than saying, “I’m so sorry. That was a total oversight; I never looked at the fuel. I will really work on leaving some fuel in the car.” Simple response, humble response, considerate response. But instead I have to go into defensive mode, and I’ve got to counterattack, and I’ve got to deflect away from my responsibility to make you look bad. That’s defensiveness.

The third one is to demean. And this is similar to denounce. It is a more passive version, that’s why I put it down on the flight end. It’s because it typically expresses disgust through a subtle means. It may not yell or scream, but it will use sarcasm, eye-rolling — you aren’t even worth my time. The hand flick — off with you, you disgust me. You used to be worth something, but you are no longer worth anything to me. That is to demean, to demean.

And then to depart is obviously a part of fleeing, flight. And that is when we stonewall, withdraw, become emotionally invisible even if we’re present. We’ve checked out. We give the silent treatment. I used to care when you talk. I don’t care anymore. It’s a kind of relational numbness, and it’s not kind. Because it’s easy to look at the yeller and see how unkind she or he is. But there are other kinds of unkindness that come in a variety of forms, and all of us have our favorite corners that we tend to run to.

How do we use this tool? A couple of suggestions. First, value living in the circle of kindness. That’s what Peter was getting at. That’s what Paul was getting at. That’s what God is saying to us. Value living in the circle of kindness. When we feel threatened, and we instinctively tend toward fight or flight, kindness can feel like compromise. It feels weak. It feels wrong because that other person needs to know what they’re doing, and they need to feel as bad as I feel or worse. To value kindness is to come to the conviction from the Spirit that, hear me, nobody can make you leave the circle of kindness. Do you realize that? Nobody can take you out of the circle of kindness. You can excuse yourself all day long. “She pushes my buttons. He gets me going. He fires me up.” But I choose to leave the circle of kindness, and I can’t throw it on everybody around me. That is to value. This is the way of Christ. To be called to Christ is to be called kindness.

Again, I want to over-emphasize this. That doesn’t mean giving up your convictions. It doesn’t mean not having any opinions. We’re not talking about a fake kind of niceness. But it is fueled by the kindness of Christ. I can still confront wrong in the circle of kindness. I can report abuse in the circle of kindness. Do you understand that? All within the circle. I can run my business, even fire somebody, in the circle of kindness. The Spirit can empower us to do that both in our action and reaction. Value living in the circle of kindness.

Secondly, grow in awareness of your fight or flight response. And I would encourage you to talk through this with your friends, with your spouse, with your life group, accountability partner. And I would just encourage you, don’t worry first and foremost about pointing out to your spouse which corner they love to go to. I had a couple grab me after the first service and said, “You need to say that way earlier because we’ve already done it.” While I’m teaching, they’re saying, “This is where you live. Your address is here.” If you’ve been married for a long time, or if you have a deep friendship, you know the corners that you tend toward or that the other person tends toward. Do you know your corner?

To me, these images of the circle of kindness and square of unkindness, corners of unkindness are so burned into my mind that when my wife and I are having a conversation for example and I feel myself, I can just visualize myself, I tend toward the corner of defensiveness. I love to debate, so bring it. Let’s have it out. Let’s go. It is entirely unhelpful and destructive because I’m way more interested in a fun argument and winning than I am in understanding or actually being kind or resolving the problem. Because it ceases to be about the problem, and it becomes about winning. This burned into my mind, and I know where I’m going to go. And that is hugely helpful because the Spirit is saying, “Whoa, Hubbard! Whoa! First of all, shut your mouth. Open your ears. Slow down, breathe, listen.” And the Spirit pulls us away from that instinctive reflexive response to something that is far more helpful.

Which corner do you go to? Some of you, most of us, have two corners that are our favorites. Some of you are hit and run drive by shooters. You go to denounce and then depart. You want to say, just like in the movies, make them feel really bad and then walk out the door. That’s perfect. And some of you are a gentle soul. You would never denounce someone, but boy your body language. You humiliate, you demean people. And so why is it helpful to know that? It’s super helpful I believe, not to make you feel bad. But if we’re going to grow in the kindness of Christ, we need to know where do we go instead of the kindness of Christ? Where do we tend to run to? And then Spirit, as we were just crying out, “Lord, I need you. I need you.” I am in this corner before I even know what just happened, and the destruction that I bring about takes days to repair. What would happen If I knew beforehand my tendency and by the power of your Spirit stayed in the circle of kindness long enough to really listen and love well?

I would encourage you to talk this through. Talk about it as a life group. Pick your favorite corner and then talk about, what does it look like to submit to the kindness of Christ, to feed on the kindness of Christ, by the power of the Spirit not to run to that corner? And then put this on your fridge so that when you’re in an argument with a family member you could point to which corner they’re in. No! “See me, I’m right here. See you, you’re right there.” They will love you forever. No, do not do that.

Finally, practice resisting the pull to the corners. And this is where I just want to take us back to those three points we ended with in 1 Peter 3:8-12, calling, blessing, praying. To practice resisting the pull to the corners is to be reminded of our calling. Conflict is not something to be feared or pursued. It’s not something to be feared — I don’t have to worry about conflict. But neither do I pursue it. But it’s something that will come. But it’s part of the calling of Christ. You can’t follow a crucified Christ and never encounter conflict. It’s impossible.

It’s been fun to watch over the years as I’ve used this a lot in premarital and some marital counseling how many times fight marries flight. People who have grown up in a home characterized by, “We’re just going to yell this out right now. There may be some body-slamming, but we’re going to resolve it, and we’re going to go to bed at peace.” And then how many of the spouses grew up in a home that’s evasive. You don’t talk about it. You sweep it under the rug, you turn the television on, and we never talk about it again. What happens when fight marries flight? That’s fun! It’s not fun. It is so important for us to realize, well, maybe God knew what he was doing when he brought these two people who are so different together. And that that is part of his calling because he has a work he’s doing.

That leads to the second one, blessing. Slow down, breathe. There’s something good for you here. There’s a blessing here for you, not the kind of blessing our culture thinks. But if you want to “love life and see good days” at work, in your neighborhood, in your family, look to the kindness of Christ. Learn how we reflexively move in the opposite direction and feed on his kindness. Because in the midst of the temptation to run to the corners is a blessing as we feed on his kindness.

And then finally, praying. What is so interesting about the fight or flight, as I mentioned at the beginning, is that physiologically your focus actually narrows when you experience fight or flight. Your vision is narrowed, and you just lock in on one thing. Well, think about the implications of that on a social interaction, not just a thug trying to break down your door. That’s good to be locked in on the thug. But socially when you’re having a conflict relationally, and your focus is so narrowed, it’s almost like you lose sight of what you originally started talking about. Has that ever happened to you? What were we fighting about? Because you’ve just become so absorbed with whatever you think you have to get across to win. And what praying does … Just feel the expansion of this as you feed on 1 Peter 3:12. His eyes are on me. His ears are open to my prayer. There’s something way bigger going on here than just me getting my way. And we begin to get our peripheral vision back. We actually lose our peripheral vision in fight or flight. We’ve become very mono focused. But our peripheral vision begins to come back, thank God. I see it. I see what you’re saying to me. Help me live that out.

To close I would like for us to prayerfully read together 1 Peter 3:8-12. If you’ll stand, we’ll put it on the screen. And view this as a benediction. This is what we’re crying out to God for as we receive the kindness of Christ, feed on his kindness, and learn to live in this circle of kindness rather than run reflexively to the corners of unkindness. Some of you may want to hold your hands out like a benediction. Lord, we are receiving this. 1 Peter 3:8. Let’s say it out loud together in faith.

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”

Go in peace.

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