There has been a lot to chew on lately but so much of it seems to hinge on behavior - my not-so-stellar. Ok, ahem, partially kidding here. What I am learning is the difference between what we do (behavior) and who we are (our identity). So much of our Christian teaching and overall interactions with others concern how we act. Call them the branches of a tree. But if we stop there and don't address the tree's root, the behavior will unlikely change, or we'll attempt change for the wrong reasons.
What God has been telling me lately is this: WHO I am is more important than WHAT I do. Or better, who I BELIEVE I am will ultimately effect what I do. Now I am certainly not saying our actions don't produce a reliable cause and effect. I am no math expert but in my world: Misbehaving + Denial = Extreme Pain. If only I could come up with a great alternative algorithm.
Back to the root of the matter: our identity. In one of His first serious interactions with Peter, after Peter acknowledged who Jesus is (Christ, Messiah, Son of the Living God), Jesus turned the tables and affirmed Peter's own identity:
"And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out."
Wow, that's not just a compliment. Notice that Jesus did not mention anything about behavior, given Peter's long history of saying and doing stupid things. He didn't say, "Well Peter, IF you remain in my good graces, we're going to give you a pretty important job with the church." Remember, this is the same poor fella who would later deny Jesus three times when he needed a friend the most.
And of course, the Rock deal wasn't off, as Peter went on to be just that. God knew all along, huh? We should remember this when we short-change ourselves by doubting something God has said about us.
Consider this: If you are frustrated with someone, you want to point out their offensive action. But if you really want to stick it to them, you attack their character - who they are. "You're totally worthless" is a long ways from "I struggle when you act that way towards me". It's behavior vs. identity.
So what about my seemingly endless behavior loops? Here is what God is showing me:
First, if you're the recipient of bad behavior, be forgiving and release your friend in Christ from the loop. Even though we battle people, it's mostly not our fight. Compassion always!
Second, the two R's (sorry, I really can't stop the behavior, ha ha). Respond instead of React. Reacting is a fight or flight mechanism, based in insecurity. But responding is what a loving God does with us. Our God is a relational one, and we are secure in Him. We need to care for our brothers and sisters in the Lord in that same way, with both identities secure.