Part 1 of 7 The Company You Keep
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Working in rodeo, when cowboys or bull riders share advice, it’s often focused on how to be more successful at the sport. A common piece of advice I’ve seen shared among the cowboy crowd is about just that—the crowd you’re in. They advise to spend more time with better, more successful competitors otherwise you risk being brought down by others.
The Bible has something to say about that as well when it comes to growing in our faith.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
Despite being written about 2,000 years ago, this is an illustration that should be easy to understand for cowboys, whether on the rodeo or ranch side of the industries.
What happens when an ox or team of horses is yoked together but one is not as well equipped, well trained or strong as the other?
The team can’t work as a team. The stronger horse is having to pull harder. The horse working harder is going to wear down. The horse working harder is going to be held back.
Sure, there are always exceptions, but when it comes to dating, it is common to hear a Christian think he or she can maintain a healthy relationship with a non-believer. The Christian thinks he or she will win that person over to Christ and will justify staying in the relationship. He or she might even get the person to study the Bible with them a little and at the start, will get asked lots of questions. That will encourage the Christian to push harder, even seeing it as ministry or what God would have them do.
The intentions are good for sure.
As the relationship heats up, the Christian compromises and moves in. I mean, even more time together means an even bigger chance to win the person over for Jesus, right?
But after that initial bit of interest, what typically happens is, the non-believer begins to fight against the changes the Christian hopes to bring about. As they begin living more daily life together, the Christian ends up sleeping in Sunday mornings with the non-believer because it’s easier than fighting to get the other to go to church. The Bible study stops as they get busier living life but soon the Christian wears down and instead of the non-believer digging into a Bible he or she never had any interest in, the Christian begins reading his or her Bible less, praying less, spending less time thinking about life from a Christian perspective as they become a couple.
The Christian wears down and is no longer the force for Jesus that he or she was. His or her light dims.
Being unequally rarely works and the ox will sooner or later stumble and fall and be taken down by the weaker ox.
By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross
Weakness is not having the strength to do something. Meekness is having the strength and power but holding it back. Do not confuse meekness for weakness.
We all have power over someone. A parent has power over a child, a trainer in the arena with a whip has power over a horse, a rodeo judge has power over the contestant.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth
Sounds like Jesus is telling us there’s a lot to be gained by holding back, even when it feels justified.
If we have strength over others, we can abuse that strength by taking more, living excessively, intimidating others or being abusive while putting our needs above others. Strength can lead to selfishness when it isn’t controlled.
The ideas Jesus was sharing in his Sermon on the Mount are challenging to the cowboy community. We’ve looked at how Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek to stop us from pursuing vengeance and giving us an opportunity instead to show others the power of forgiveness. That can become an illustration that can lead others to wanting to know about why we walked away from a situation and lead to a discussion about our saving faith in Jesus.
That’s why it is important to understand that choosing to turn the other cheek can be a sign of meekness that has absolutely nothing to do with being weak.
A person of great strength has the power to intimidate or abuse others but think about how much better a leader is if, instead of abusing that power, they treat someone with kindness and gentleness. By keeping strength under control, well, that takes even more strength than lashing out.
John 18:10-11 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
11 Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
Peter lashed out when guards came to take Jesus away and Jesus commands Peter to put the sword away. While we know God’s plan for salvation was meant to unfold and Jesus would soon die for us on the Cross, Peter didn’t and his rash response, strength over that priest, would potentially have interfered with the need for Jesus to be arrested, tried and sacrificed for us on the cross.
Our self-control, or meekness, can set an example people are not expecting the way our culture normally handles situations and can lead to important discussions about salvation by showing a Christ-like response to others. That offers a great inheritance of eternal life in Heaven to others.
Does it bring God glory to use your power to lash out or does it bring Him glory for others to know you could have made hamburger out of a guy’s face, that he had it coming, but you held back your anger and spared him. That shows Jesus to the guy and opens the door to talk about salvation. THAT is something we’re all commanded to do but few of us ever do.
It can be hard for a cowboy, bull rider or outlaw to accept this but again, meekness is having real power but keeping it under control. Holding back takes more strength than letting loose. Be strong.