Grace, River Flow, and Bifurcation

I’m still flowing in the same current with this new post. As I’ve thought more about rivers, I’ve come to the idea of the way we pour out to others from our own stream. That landed squarely with bifurcation.

bi·fur·cate ¹
[v., adj. bahy-fer-keyt, bahy-fur-keyt]
1. to divide or fork into two branches.
2. divided into two branches. adj.
Origin:
1605–15;  < ML bifurcātus,  p.p. of bifurcāre (bi- bi-1  + furc ( a ) fork + -ātus -ate1)

The beauty in this word is the river fork, water flowing easily into two separate branches. I’m reminded we naturally influence others in various ways—whether we think about it or not, whether we like it or not. We trickle, bubble, spill, or flood into others’ lives in countless ways. Good or bad. When I take a long, hard look, I see how I impact the people I live with 24/7 and the ones I encounter briefly. My husband and the cashier both experience my presence in some way. I would sooner stop a freight train than the water flow.

We trickle, bubble, spill, or flood into others’ lives.

Then it was completely natural to imagine two individuals in my mind: those of similar and different inclination.

Water Quality Testing
First things first, I need to test my water quality (inclination) because that determines everything. I’ve thought about it, and the question I need to answer for myself is simple: Will I love the One who sacrificed everything for li’l old me with everything I’ve got (heart, mind, and strength) by loving others? You may have a different personal question in mind, but this one is mine. If you adopt my question as your own for a second, together we might wonder what that love could look like. It seems we would take our cues and clues from the perfectly truthful and loving God himself.

Water Consistency and a Choice
The environmental scientist reveals fascinating, minute details about the sample through a water quality test. I feel the analogy works well here when I think about how I would examine the intricate details of my heart, faith, and where I stand in relation to the source of water, my God.

How are the water quality levels?

Now I have to consider the character of God. Just who is God? Do I want to be like him? More simply, do I want HIM? When God announced his name and defined his character to Moses, he said this:

Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh-Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth,  Exodus 34:6 CSB

He is full of compassion and grace. That’s exactly what God wants to cultivate in us, so we look more and more like our Abba. How’s the water sample shaping up in comparison? How are the water levels on compassion, grace, patience, love, and truth? No, no—we don’t need to be perfect or face disqualification. It’s not like that. If this were an “all or nothing” thing, it wouldn’t be grace-filled. We’ve just solidified that he is compassionate and gracious; he defined his own character that way. We decide in our hearts if we honestly desire God and to be more and more like him.

The Choice
We decide to be in direct relationship to God, to intentionally keep a bead on our water quality with the hopes of flowing more and more true, or not. That’s an important piece in the process. With God, the flow of our stream will be unique. Others will be influenced by the overflow of all that Jesus is doing in our lives. It will be obvious! But, obvious how? The evidence can be seen. Consider the following:

Our response should be a loving outpouring of his truth with the words we have available. We’ll talk about it!

I did not hide Your righteousness in my heart; I spoke about Your faithfulness and salvation; I did not conceal Your constant love and truth from the great assembly. Psalm 40:10 CSB

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”  1 Corinthians 5:20 CSB

Our influential flow has never been just words.

Little children, we must not love in word or speech, but in deed and truth;  1 John 3:18

Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27a CSB

Deep Calling to Deep
The choice must be made. Even if we refuse the choice, we’re making a choice. Somewhere deep in the soul, beneath any facades or false pretenses, a brook babbles on and on about our need for significance. I believe this significance is discovered in how we are loved and love others, in knowing God and making him known. When God is our source, one branch of the stream flows from him, through us, and laterally to others who have the same inclination and relationship to God, while the other flows into the lives of those who have unknown, undecided, or completely different inclination. Without question, the water is shared.

Sharing has benefits. Part of sharing matures us, and part of it shares our maturity with others. While community and familiarity has a potential to breed many things, the positive side of relationship to others (regardless of the length of time) is that we are not alone, we experience new things, and we might share in others’ strengths and victories as they share in ours. Community, done well, benefits so many.

Truth, wisdom, learning, and good sense – these are worth paying for, but too valuable for you to sell. Proverbs 23:23 GNT

But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ. Ephesians 4:15 CSB

Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:27 CSB

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.  According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts  Romans 12: 4-6b

We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.  Hebrews 10:25  GW

Our high calling: clean water.

Pure, Clean Water
When I think about flowing into lives with the same inclination, these verses are just a few that inspire me to live out the calling Christians have been graciously given: Be the Church. As members of the community who identify with Jesus’ life and sacrifice on the cross, we have the command to be maturing, sharing, and sharing in maturity.

The struggle may be staying biblical versus personal in our perspectives. Focusing on clear, Bible-based discussions avoids “straining gnats” but “swallowing camels” (Matthew 23:24). While untrue, unbiblical sharing is bound to happen, our goal is discerning truth, embracing it, and living it. When it happens, we have the responsibility to graciously enter into mature conversations about it. If Jesus is our standard (not the humans we know, necessarily), that changes everything. He is our only comparison and our only understanding of “good,” lest we pridefully think we’re “good enough” in light of the people around us. Our influence is much more humble and gentle when we have a clear understanding of who God is and who we are, don’t you think? We more submissively receive and share.

Entrusted with the Others
There are other relationships with unique significance in the eyes of Jesus. As a Christian, I encounter others with inclinations that are unknown, indecisive, confused, or dead-set against mine. I’m still flowing into their lives. Again, I would sooner stop a freight train than my influence in others’ lives. Is my five minute interaction with the obviously emotionally distraught cashier as precious as my eight hours with the rude, antagonistic co-worker? The 24/7 and occasional influence? Do I value people as much as God does? How is my water flow different? I think we’ve been given clear direction to be a specific flow of grace.

And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus—who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to right teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:1-3

So will my word be which goes out of my mouth: it will not come back to me with nothing done, but it will give effect to my purpose, and do that for which I have sent it.  Isaiah 55:11 BBE

We have the responsibility to speak and exemplify truth. Whoa—big calling! It’s how we show off the beautiful reconciliation with holy God that is available to all of us (2 Corinthians 5:11).

Faithful love and truth will join together; righteousness and peace will embrace. Psalm 85:10 CSB

Actions—and Words, if Necessary…
Our lives flow out in front of others, influencing them daily. When we use words, they are carefully chosen.

but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear,  so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:15-16 CSB

“Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege. Matthew 7:6 MSG

Gentleness, respect, integrity, relevance and depth. These Gospel-sharing puzzle pieces should make us consider our water flow. Praying to know our audience, or at least gauge the relational interaction and impact well, means we know the moment for a trickle, bubble, or strong rapid. We have a command, but we need to be led how to proceed with each precious individual. Let our light shine before everyone (Matthew 5:15)! And we’ll use words, if we have to.

Well, this may have been a bit of a flood…  *blink. blink.*

~Jennifer

_____________________________

¹ Bifurcate: http://www.dictionary.com

Photo Credits: all photos sourced from http://www.morguefile.com

All Scripture sourced from http://www.biblestudytools.com

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