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Faithful Living: Choosing love over victories

I grew up near the foothills in Southern California and each fall we worried about wildfires. The year the foothills near my home caught fire was the year my dad was acting principal of the nearby high school and stayed with several hundred students evacuated to the school when the foothill fire sprang up, dangerously near our neighborhoods.

Without him, but in my mother’s able hands, we put our fire emergency plan into action. We packed the car with basic clothing, family photos, my mother’s silver, and keepsakes. My brother was thrilled to be able to stand up on the roof to water the shingles and we stayed in direct contact with firemen, stationed up the street who worked diligently to keep the fire from leaping from the foothills and over to the homes lining our street.

The air was sooty. The sun, obscured by the smoke, took on a strange, other worldly appearance. We could hear popping as dry trees and brush nearby caught fire. Heat generated by the flames intensified when we walked to the top of our street to get a closer look.

But the fire never made its way to our homes. We eventually unloaded the car and my exhausted daddy finally came home with tales of his time spent couped up with worried teenagers.

While we don’t have dry winds to contend with this September, a whole lot of us have put out a few fires of our own this week, fanned most often by careless rather than faithful living. God calls us to get along with each other and one of the best ways to do that is to simply stop trying to win arguments.

God calls us to focus on loving those around us—to aim for love, rather than to aim for a victory. When we find ourselves embroiled in a disagreement, God offers us some helpful strategies for dousing the fire rather than fanning the flames.

1. Let God determine the truth and give less power to feelings. In First Corinthians 1 you’ll find practical advice that includes stopping in mid-argument and seeking God’s wisdom. This foundation will often shorten conflict if you both agree to God’s truth.

2. Choose a merciful response rather than focusing your attention on identifying what seems fair. Let Romans 5:8 and Proverbs be your guide here. Surprise people with an unpredictable reaction that can only come from God’s strength and wisdom that you’re putting to good use.

3. Look for God’s presence, for He draws near to us in conflict and in peace. What are the subtle signs that He’s near? What does God want us to learn from the struggle?

4. Put down the usual human weapons that frequently include silence, blame, threats, nagging, sarcasm, and ridicule. Regardless of the heat of the moment, take a breath and stop.

5. Choose love then pick up a spiritual weapon instead. These include patience, tolerance, prayer, forgiveness, balance, understanding, hope, perseverance, strength, and trust.

Let’s make it a point this week to cool sparks so when the winds blow and the fire heats up, our words and actions can stop destruction in its tracks. Let’s choose love rather than victory.

Reach Joan Bay Klope, faithfulliving@hotmail.com.

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