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1 John 2:7-11, A New Commandment

Tuesday, June 26

Training Thought

Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.

reshape your thoughts

We know that God's commandments were written to guide people's actions so that people could live in community with relative safety, civility, and peace. Jesus spoke vividly about shaping people's behaviors. And here, the writer of 1 John also writes about sin and the behaviors that harm God, others, or ourselves.

God, Jesus, and here the writer of 1 John, also made it clear that there was no room in God's world for hatred. The writer wrote about the consequences of hatred -- hating a brother or sister is walking in darkness, where there is bound to be stumbling and being lost. But hatred by itself is not a behavior, it is a perspective or attitude, perhaps even a feeling. Can perspectives, attitudes, or feelings be shaped, or are they simply things that happen to us? How can we control those things that just happen to us? How can we change our thoughts when they seem to pop into our heads out of nowhere?

The reality is that thoughts do not materialize from nowhere. Our thoughts are shaped by our experiences, and further by our interpretation of our experiences. Events occur, we tell ourselves stories about those events, and then make conclusions about the events, about ourselves, and about others based on our conclusions. We then shape our behaviors around the conclusions we draw from our thoughts about those events. It's a much longer series of events than we generally consider.

So how can we shift the thoughts that cause us to hate? We must train ourselves to consider that the stories we tell ourselves may not be true. Here's an example...

A driver cuts us off. We tell ourselves a story, that drivers that cut us off are selfish and rude. We observe that the driver is a teenager. We tell ourselves a story, that teenagers are selfish and rude. Hatred toward teenagers begins to well up inside of us, and before long we are flipping off every teenage driver that crosses our path.

If we change the stories we tell ourselves, we can reshape our interpretations of the experiences, and in turn our feelings and behaviors toward the people involved. So...

A driver cuts us off. We tell ourselves a story, that drivers that cut us off might be distracted by personal crises such as the death of a loved one or a medical diagnosis. We observe that the driver is a teenager. We tell ourselves a story, that teenage drivers have even less experience than older drivers, and might be even more prone to distraction, and we wonder what might be going on in their lives that caused them such distraction. We begin to cultivate compassion, and before long we are giving teenager drivers a wider berth and a more patient response. 

Hatred doesn't just happen to us. We cultivate it by our thoughts and actions. How might you reshape your thoughts today to cultivate tolerance, compassion, and love?

Narrative Lectionary Text: 1 John 2:7-11

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

Earlier Event: June 25
1 John 2:3-6, Christ the Advocate
Later Event: June 27
1 John 2:12-14, A New Commandment