Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition: the act or instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect.

A couple months ago, I explored the idea of treating others according to their potential, not their past—which I wholeheartedly believe.

But what happens when treating others according to their potential, not their past, puts us in hazardous emotional/spiritual/physical situations? How do we guard our hearts while still believing the best?

What happens when treating others according to their potential, not their past, puts us in hazardous emotional/spiritual/physical situations? How do we guard our hearts while still believing the best? Click To Tweet

I’m not even going to pretend to understand all that this means. It’s a deep question to answer and one of the many juxtapositions of our faith. But as I reflected on this idea, some verses came to mind.

First, what does guarding our hearts mean? I’ve always assumed it meant to kick out my sinful desires and to protect myself against temptation. But what if it also means to guard myself against the sinful actions of others?

What does Proverbs 4:23  mean?

Sandwiched in a chapter on acquiring wisdom, we’re told to guard (NIV) or watch over (NASB) our hearts because this is where our life springs from. Our emotional life. Our spiritual life.

The word for ‘guard’ and ‘watch over’ is interesting. The Hebrew word, natsar. It means to guard, watch, watch over, keep. It carries this idea of keeping something hidden and safe from a besieging force.

That idea shook me because besieging forces come from outside. This is so much bigger than I originally thought. This is more than being carried away by my own sinful desires (James 1:14-15)

Guarding your heart while believing the best. The very definition of juxtaposition.

Guarding your heart while believing the best. The very definition of juxtaposition. Click To Tweet
Is this what Jesus lived out as a man walking the dirt roads of Israel?

Jesus, performing signs. Jesus, amassing believers. Jesus, the celebrity of Passover. John tells us that in the midst of what looked like outward support, Jesus didn’t entrust himself to anyone, because he knew what was in their hearts.

Was Jesus guarding his heart? Our Savior’s own words counseled the disciples to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. More juxtaposition.

The most powerful thing that hits me as I read these passages is that Jesus is not living a life of self. Everything he does, every word he says, every action he takes is drenched in purpose. His actions support God’s plan. His words usher in God’s kingdom. When he protects himself, it’s not with the goal of self-safety, it’s with the goal of mission-safety.

Each one of us who have been born again has been baptized into purpose. When we leave our hearts unguarded it puts our mission in jeopardy. But encouraging, building up, strengthening in love…those are part of the mission too. Another juxtaposition.

This is why Paul says we fight not against  flesh and blood.  He’s saying, “Stay on track! Don’t forget who you’re really guarding against!”

How do we get up each day and treat each other with innocent love, faithfully operating under potential not past while also faithfully guarding our own hearts?

By keeping our eyes on the mission.

What’s the mission?

Jesus.

It’s impossible any other way. When Peter climbed out of the boat and locked eyes with Jesus, he stomped through the waves. But when his eyes slipped to the waves crashing against his calves, he started drowning.

Look up. Lock eyes. Don’t pay attention to the waves that are about to drown you. Believe the best but guard against the worst. Encourage others but also speak truth. Love the person hurting you but fight the enemy.

Embrace the juxtaposition.

Originally written for Pierce Point Community Church blog. Accessible here.

16 thoughts on “Juxtaposition”

  1. Great thoughts, Stephanie. I am challenged by this. I have faced a lot of hurt in my life and the thought of treating someone according to her potential in God’s eyes is difficult. What if their potential is worse? What of they have the capacity to cause much greater pain? Does that mean I should also be that much shrewder in how I handle them? The challenge for me is in seeing her potential for good. I really appreciate this post. It is timely and difficult, the way truth should feel.

    1. That’s the rub that I’m working through as well. How do you navigate the line where you keep your eyes on the potential for good while being shrewd about the potential for pain? Like I said, deep questions that I definitely don’t have a handle on but knowing that Jesus had to navigate the same situations definitely helps. Thanks for your comment. Very encouraging!

  2. A wonderful message. Your thoughts have inspired me to look at places in my life where I might be holding on to past hurt feelings. I need to forgive and move forward. I love your statement, “Love the person hurting you but fight the enemy.” Amen

    1. Thank you, Melissa. I know that in myself those areas are so hard to pinpoint. I’m an expert at hiding them or rationalizing them. Praying for God’s blessing on your introspection.

  3. It is easy to do with our close circle of friends but difficult when we get deeply hurt by someone you trusted. I am working to love a few people who hurt me and it can be a struggle. But with God’s help, I will.

  4. Fresh insight, Stephanie. Jesus didn’t live a life of self. I love the idea of treating others according to their potential, not their past. While that’s hard, especially if they are repeat offenders in our lives, it is seeing their potential…their best. Looking past their mistakes and sins and offering grace. The same Jesus does for us.

  5. This paragraph contains the lifelong lesson marching orders “Look up. Lock eyes. Don’t pay attention to the waves that are about to drown you. Believe the best but guard against the worst. Encourage others but also speak truth. Love the person hurting you but fight the enemy.”

    Repeatedly we must remember this, often hourly, usually daily, always necessary. As ministers of the gospel and ambassadors of Christ, we follow in his footsteps, learning to model his perfect personal boundaries, his selfless love, and his total sacrifice for others. Justaposition indeed! Great thoughts to ponder today!

    Nice to meet you, Stephanie! This is my first read! Well done! God bless!

  6. “Treat others according to their potential, not their past”…. WOW! That really hit me. What a great truth to help us see others the way God sees them! Thanks Stephanie!

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