Just about everybody knows about Q-tips® cotton swabs. These little sticks with a puff of cotton on each end have many uses. Perhaps they are most famous for the one thing they should never be used for—cleaning out the ear canal. They do, however, have many other uses. They are good for applying makeup or nail polish. Some people use them to collect dust from small spaces, like parts of the computer, or for making crafts. Some people use the name in a slightly different way—as an acronym for “Quit taking it personally, stupid.” (Maybe the stupid part is a bit much, but there has to be something for the “s.”)
The idea is not new. Maybe Eve complained about being blamed for the forbidden fruit thing, and Adam was the first to say, “quit taking it personally.” (If so, it was probably the only time someone could say that there was no choice but to take it that way.) All joking aside, it is a biblical concept. God has repeatedly told his people not to take rejection personally.
First there was Moses. This man had led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt. He had parted the Red Sea. He had met God on Sinai. Even the most humble man on earth found it hard not to take rejection personally. When the people complained that they were starving in the wilderness, Moses took it personally.
And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? (Num 11:11)
God replied, “Moses, Q-tips.” Actually he told Moses to take some men to help him bear the burden of Israel. One way to quit taking it personally is to share the load.
Then there was Samuel. He had been a prophet and judge in Israel for many years. Then one day the people say, “give us a king.” Can you blame Samuel for feeling like he was being personally attacked? Yet God reminds him, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Sam 8:7) Sometimes when we take things personally, we are taking on what belongs to someone else. Samuel put himself in God’s place, and God quickly put him back in his own place.
Elijah was not normally a whiner. One time, though, he had to flee into the wilderness. When God asked him (twice) what he was doing there, Elijah replied, “I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10, 14) Out in the middle of nowhere, Elijah throws a pity party. But does God buy it? Not at all. “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel.” (1 Kings 19:18) Elijah had no right to take it personally, because he was not alone. Sometimes we need to take a step back and see if someone else is suffering the same things we are.
Jesus could have taken it personally. The week before, people had welcomed him in triumph to Jerusalem. But now he was hanging on a stake, with nails in his hands and feet. He had been beaten, spat upon, lied about, and now he was being executed like a criminal. Even the guys on death row with him were mocking him. He was about to bear the sins of the whole world. His response: “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34) Not long after this, Stephen showed he had learned the Q-tips® lesson. As he was being stoned, he said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” (Acts 7:60) The real lesson about not taking things personally is to give them to God. He will take care of matters, and take care of us.
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