We can be grateful that our spiritual selfies are not usually revealed on Facebook. But have no doubt that God and others recognize spiritual selfie look-alikes. Jesus helps us to see our Spiritual Selfies within parables. A new project – quick snapshots of Old and New Testament Biblical characters who unknowingly revealed their own spiritual selfies through their behavior. We are no different, really.
For a taste – check out Absalom’s — It is longer than usual, but I’d like to know what you think.
Absalom – Creating an Image
All photos are accurate. None of them is the truth. ~Richard Avedon
Political figures are all about creating an image they want people to believe. Absalom would be in his glory in our politically oriented world. He had every reason to admire what he saw in the mirror, as 2 Samuel 14:25 tells us: “in all Israel was no one as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no defect in him.” Selfie material for sure! And Absalom knew how to promote it.
Physically, Absalom had it all. Outwardly he was attractive to the extreme, and continuing chapters reveal that he was also very cunning and clever. The city’s gate was the hangout place in Absalom’s day and he would often show up there telling the disgruntled if only he was their representative, he would solve their problems. People say if you hear something often enough, you will come to believe it, and Absalom was using his words and his natural features to win and manipulate the hearts of the people – and to hide his secrets.
Absalom’s passion stirred from anger over a grave injustice to his sister – an understandable reason to seek justice. However, Absalom’s choice of how to handle his burden (retain and inflame bitterness and refuse God’s justice) created a Spiritual Selfie that mocked what he was daily ‘selling’ to admirers.
What do we hide behind in our selfies? The majority of us don’t likely see the perfection Absalom saw, but we do try to capture the fleeting moments of our own glory. Like Absalom, we also have the power to choose to manipulate those who love us, and to let the evils in our past guide and control our actions in the present and the future.
You likely know Absalom’s ending – his head and renowned hair were caught in a tree, once again calling attention to himself, though quite by accident. He was discovered and defeated on his way to what he assumed would be certain victory.
Absalom’s spiritual selfie is not so very attractive because he chose to misuse the gifts God gave him in order to execute vengeance himself.
How can we avoid Absalom’s path? Romans 12:19 is clear: “ Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.”
The choice is still the same – to put off bitterness we need to duck and put on forgiveness.
IF you are like me, you have tried it. Many times, and many ways, like a temporary diet, the bitterness, the craving to exact justice, always returns. Why is that? Because we try to put off behaviors in our own strength – as though we can suppress our old desires and change our ways (while keeping a bottle, a bag or a burden hidden away just in case it doesn’t work). We sometimes try to cover our spiritual selfie with new clothes, a hairstyle or makeup in order to hear, like Absalom, the praise of friends and followers that we are “lookin’ good.”
But we know the truth. God is taking our spiritual selfies. He sees what and who we can be – through the lens of our Savior – IF we accept His Lordship.
God’s pattern is to first put on. NLT Romans 13:14 instructs us to give up trying what we can never do on our own: “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”
In other words duck! Get out of God’s way. Our performing vengeance “for the Lord” can only be ineffective or make things worse. When we try to role-play the Holy Spirit and mete out actions we feel others deserve, we are actually blocking God from doing His work.
We know how things are, and we spend a lot of time whining to God whose fault it is that things are the way they are. We also spend too much time putting our “Absalom” forward – creating an image of what we want the world to see.
The presence of Christ, however, helps us to see things as they should be and can be. We can give the critical spirit to God…and begin to see the enemy as God sees them: already defeated.
Psalm 9-(The Message)
Their feet all tangled in the net they spread.
They have no excuse; the way God works is well-known.
The cunning machinery made by the wicked has maimed their own hands.
The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell.
…Shake them up, God!
Show them how silly they look.
Show us too, God, how silly we look trying to create and enhance our own image, and trying to act out your role –playing God instead of forgiving. Help us, Lord, to put on your character qualities and create a selfie that focuses on you.
The Spiritual Selfie:
Reverse the Focus: Forgiveness
Read Jesus’ response to judging another; then search my own heart
Jesus’ response to judging one another
John 8:7-9 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst.
Search my own heart
Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
What forgiveness is not:
- It is not forcing the other person to say they are sorry.
- It is not, if they do apologize, expecting or requiring them to name the specific way they hurt you.
- It is not interfering with God’s judgment, in his own way and time. (That is the hard part for most of us)
It is rather, releasing the offense and all resulting repercussions to God. Forgiveness is to resist judging or displaying a lack of love.
Instead I want to submit and let God search my motives, thoughts, words, and actions. Pray that I may recall how only God has the power to condemn or forgive, and how He chose to love and forgive me while I was still a sinner. Now He chooses to demonstrate His love through me, by giving me the choice to allow His spirit to work through me – or not.
It’s been jokingly said that some people never get ulcers because they are only the carriers, but in reality each offense taken from life issues offers the choice of ulcers or healing (spiritual as well as physical); and erosion a natural result if we constantly choose to internalize life events rather than (thinking on these things) processing the event into an opportunity for God to work.
Zoom In: Remember John 4:7. The first two words – Draw near – imply an action – a choice of movement toward Jesus. If we put ON the rain repellant, our coat can RESIST the water. In the same way Putting OFF – resisting – is a result of our choice of action to apply the solution and power available. In moving closer we clearly recognize the fact that we are not alone and now have the strength of the Savior replacing our own.
Capture it: Draw 3 columns on a journal page
Column 1 – List each grievance, injustice, or bitterness followed by initials or name.
Column 2 – Give them to God – Literally pray, visualize if it helps, placing grievance and person in God’s hands, and then write GTG (gave to God) next to each.
Column 3 – Fill in date or change when it comes to either party (injured or antagonist). This could come in hours, days, months, or years.
It has been said that not forgiving is like you taking poison and expecting the other party to suffer the effects. This exercise is for YOU – to free you from the effects of bitterness, and to change your Spiritual Selfie.
Filling up with – Forgiveness
Repels/puts off – Judging – In light of God’s love, what is the right thing to do or say?
Matt 7:1-2 “by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”