“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” Psalm 51:12-13
On the surface it would appear the psalmist is trying to make a deal with The Lord; IF you restore me, I will pass it on. Of course there is more to it, but the prayer upholds a central tenet of faith: we cannot know of this remarkable gift until it is granted from Above. The compelling nature of this gift, however, does not allow us to disengage from the world or to take this gift as strictly “personal”. It is personal in the beginning, of course, but it is at the same time to serve a Divine purpose. The Spirit moves us to teach others.
This does not mean we become judges by which we impose spiritual sentencing nor does it allow that we can simply point fingers at those behaviors we find questionable. Rather it demands that we reach first for the higher standard within ourselves and order our lives in such a way that people learn not from our empty words but by our substantial actions. That is, they learn by the way we live and act and interact with the world. And the lesson learned can be good and uplifting – or – it can be negative and demoralizing. The nature of the lesson offered through the lives we lead will then determine whether sinners will even care to be “converted” to The Lord.
Israel was set apart from the beginning not to lead privileged lives but to serve as a “priestly” nation to serve The Lord by witnessing to the rest of the world. I think it is the “witnessing” that confuses most of us because we have come to believe this act requires preaching in any venue or telling people about The Lord and how they must come to be saved. There is that, of course, but like a successful fruit-producing garden, there is much more that must happen before the “seed” is finally planted. The “soil” must first be prepared to receive the “seed”.
We prepare the soil by our living, by our daily habits, by our conversations. Telling people about Jesus while acting like a jerk by mistreating or slandering others will win no hearts for the Kingdom. But we must also remember that to be “upheld by the generous Spirit” is to be given a new, circumcised heart upon which Torah (we mistakenly call it “law”) is written; that is, the ways of God become our ways and the love of God becomes our love. This is holiness at its best, and it must be our lifelong pursuit. Then transgressors will care to be taught, and sinners will want to be converted by what they see and experience through us.
Maybe our question for today from The Lord would be: Can I trust you to share this remarkable gift, or will you mistakenly believe it was meant only for you?