Thursday, December 6, 2012

The walking wounded - Recovery after major attacks within the body of Christ

2 Timothy 2:14 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

Have you ever met anyone who has been terribly wounded by a fellow Christian? Have you been in a position where you have had a friend or loved one striking out at you either in secret or in the open? Was it an isolated incident or repeated behavior? 

The world holds many walking wounded - the Christian community is not immune.  I'm not talking today about people who do not know the love of God in their life - I mean the ones who do, or are supposed to - yet they go on harming others; Intentionally. 

I grew up in a Christian home, and school. I learned a lot about the Lord, and a lot about human nature. I recognized, even as a child that something was amiss when someone was speaking words of love and Jesus from one side of their mouth, and then striking out at others - using words to intentionally cause harm - forming opinions that had not come from godly wisdom, but from a hollow place inside themselves - and using them to hurt. Somehow the pain seems doubled when  someone uses the name of God to inflict it. 

Thankfully, our home was a stable, loving environment - and that ultimately helped me reconcile the other. "The other" would be those who seek to do harm in order to build themselves up. There were some who were not so lucky. Some who rejected church, and ultimately Christ because of the experience. There are some who never will trust another Christian. 

When you carry the name of Jesus - especially in a position of authority - you bear a much larger responsibility. Unloving, nasty behavior can and will be used against you. More importantly - your behavior reflects on your God in the eyes of others- particularly new believers or unbelievers.

  • None of us are perfect.
  • All will make mistakes. 
  • We will each act wrongly and sometimes be hurtful. 
  • We aren't talking about isolated incidents - but about repeated patterns of behavior. 

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? James 4:1

These people suffer from great chasms of insecurity. Their actions are the result of the enemy at work in them. We all stumble, but I'm talking about people who have formed repeated habit patterns - leaving a trail of destruction - problems with relationships - wherever they go. 

There is a big difference between hurting someone, and continually, intentionally, repeatedly inflicting harm on others within the body of Christ. The difference is as far and wide as that chasm they are stuck in. 

What do you do with that? 

We know the right answer. You forgive. You pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. When you are dealing with repeated habit patterns - and you've tried and tried to restore, forgive, reconcile - yet the walking dead keep biting off chunks of flesh; Then what? 

Joseph forgave his brothers, Paul forgave those who persecuted him just as Jesus did. There is no question about the fact that we must forgive (or there shouldn't be).

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6: 14-15 

When you are dealing with those who repeat such habit patterns and go to great lengths to strike out, spend time searching for ways to do harm - perhaps dealing with mental illness or narcissistic behaviors - the best thing to do is to step away and let God handle it. 

Forgiveness does not mean your interaction with them is required. 

Do not feed into the games. Do not respond. Do not fuel the fire. 

I have a friend who has continually been subjected to repeat emotional abuse at the hands of her "Christian" family. They have spitefully sought to hurt her. They have judged her. They aren't trying to help - they are seeking to harm. It's gone on for years and even though they've been asked to stop - they continue with their mean spirited behavior. Years. 

My advice to her is to stay AWAY from them. They are hurting her immediate family. They have shown no true remorse for pain they have inflicted and they continue to hurt her. In these situations, a little distance may be the only way you can maintain godly character yourself. 

This does not mean you aren't acting in love or that you are harboring unforgiveness. It means you are not going to allow their crazy behavior to keep you from the things God has for you to do. It means you are acting wisely. You cannot make them understand, so get out of the line of fire and let God help them. 

Whosoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles.
Proverbs 21:23

We find these behaviors even in church. I believe it's one of satan's biggest tricks. There are people, sadly, who actually spend time working at it. Forgiveness should be given freely - but we are warned against spending time getting caught up in such an unworthy fight. 

So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. Psalm 81:12
 (a theme repeated by God throughout the bible - it IS a godly choice) 

  • What if they talk about me? 
  • Why should they get away with it? 
  • How can I stop them? 

He is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions.  1 Timothy 6:4 

Release them!
Forgive them - then release them to God. 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  Exodus 14:14 

Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
 Proverbs 30:5 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  Psalm 27:1 

If you are among the walking wounded today - please know that you are not alone. Many,  have been hurt within the body of Christ and many more will be.  If you have witnessed this behavior among Christians and it's made you want to run from the church or refrain from fellowship with other believers - YOU are NOT alone! 

There are a lot of us limping around. Please don't let your bad experience keep you from the fellowship God has for you. A godly friendship with Christian sisters is possible. I can't promise you'll never be hurt by another Christian, or that you won't come across judgemental, petty people. But God will heal if you allow Him to. You can forgive, let go of old hurts and know true godly fellowship if you will simply hand it all over for Him. Lay it at His feet. 

Forgive readily, so you can walk in the fullness of God's love. Always try to make amends.  Keep an eye out for repeated patterns of behavior and release those for God to deal with. Be wise. Pray for those who harm you.  We cannot trust others not to hurt us - but we can always trust God! 

Thank you Lord for your peace and healing for all who choose it. 

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