When we first arrived here, we purposed in our hearts that this property would be dedicated to the Lord for His glory and His use. We even put the verse on our mantle... "As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15 As far as we are concerned, this house and our yard is His.
A few days ago, our neighbor approached me and asked if she could have a cutting off our flowering tree to plant in her yard. I love opportunities to be a good neighbor, so I was happy to share. As the branch was being cut, she told me her purpose for the tree. My heart was broken.
The flowers on the tree are used in her pagan worship of the sun god. After we had dedicated this house and property to the Lord, a piece of it was now going to be used in pagan worship.
For two days I battled anger, guilt, and frustration. I really needed guidance and comfort. This morning in my devotion, I got it!
For the past two days, 1 Corinthians 10 kept coming to mind. In my foolishness, I assumed I was familiar enough with the section that I didn't need to look it up. I felt I knew what counsel it had to give. (Doesn't this wreak of pride?) So, it wasn't until this morning that I finally gave in and read through the passage.
1 Corinthians 10:23-33 "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not."
In this situation, I had forgotten that I am under grace. All things are lawful for me. I actually have the freedom to give my pagan neighbor a tree... no matter what her purpose is for that tree. When I read that first part, oh the guilt melted away! But I am also reminded that there are some things worth giving up my liberty for.
"Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."
No, this isn't a pro-Obama verse... Ha! Sorry to be political for a brief moment. This verse is talking about not seeking your own well-being and provision, but to constantly be searching for ways to help and serve others... to put their well-being before your own. In this situation, I need to be focused on my neighbor's well-being.
"Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake:"
Transparent moment... um... we literally deal with this kind of thing here. The people here sacrifice animals, fruits, and veggies to their gods! I am so thankful that God put this passage in here to guide us in these decisions. The fact of the matter is, we shouldn't go around asking... remember, we have freedom in Christ. Even if they did sacrifice it to their gods, it isn't going to "taint" us. This passage isn't about us at all! It is about their needs... the ones sacrificing to false gods. I could eat all the sacrificed meat I want! I could give a million tree clippings to all my neighbors even if they are going to use it in pagan worship! But what is best for THEM?
"For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof."
I must admit, I didn't realize this verse was in this passage... and yet, this is the exact verse I needed most. Long before we ever dedicated this house, this property, these plants and trees for God's glory, HE dedicated it for Himself. This property was His already! So why should we dedicate it to Him? For our benefit! It is a reminder that we are His and to glorify Him. That tree is God's. He made it. And no matter what my neighbor uses it for... it doesn't supercede the fact that everything was created by God and for God. My neighbor could use the tree to worship a million idols... but that doesn't change the fact that it belongs to my Father.
"If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake."
My neighbor invited me to a feast, in a sense. Though we were not talking about sharing a meal... we were talking about sharing plants. So I arrived at the "plant feast" and I asked no questions.
"But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:"
In the MIDDLE of our "plant feast" she announced that it would be a sacrifice to idols. The damage to the tree was already done. The branch had been cut. I truly believe this neighbor was testing the waters to see if we would condone her idolatry. She has been very forward about how religious she is. She wants to make sure we know who she is and what she does. As I look back on it, I wonder if I should have retracted my gift to her... but no matter. The decision was made because the damage to the tree was already done.
"Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?"
Telling her "No" would not have been for my conscience's sake. I have liberty! But for her conscience.
"For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?"
This morning I spent time thanking God for the beautiful tree he allowed to be on this property. What joy it has brought me! And what a beautiful reminder of God's power and grace.
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."
This verse is painted on our dining room wall. How much more REAL it is to me today! A few days ago, I didn't eat or drink... I did "whatsoever ye do." I gave. I gave for God's glory, to be a good neighbor. That is what mattered on my part. Because I had forgotten that, I was overcome with sadness when I felt it didn't go the way I planned it. But God was not shocked. I have a feeling that I will have another opportunity to address this topic with her, and to protect her conscience better than I did this time. I pray it will be an opportunity to show her how much I care about her. Just like there are times when I tell my children "no" because I love them, I pray that I can show her just as much love if I must tell her "no."
"Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved."
Telling her "no" is about reaching out to her in hopes that she will see her need... as well as that she will see the love of Christ reaching out.
"Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:"
Do not mistake this word "offence." It isn't talking about the modern use of the word... that we should never offend anyone or hurt their feelings. It is talking about not being a stumbling block to them. I pray that how I handled the situation the other day was not a stumbling block for her. My heart's desire is for her to see Christ through me. May I not be offensive, and may I learn equally to never shy away from truth because it offends. May I learn to speak the truth in such a fashion that it drips with love.
Thank you for allowing me to be "real." These are real decision people like us sometimes face... how precious God's Word is in guiding us. "For the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." Thank you for your trees, Lord.