The Customers From Hell

Our casual dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in the area was recently disrupted by the belligerence and ceaseless complaining coming from the table behind us. I was suddenly a really, really big fan of social distancing and had some creative ideas for the use of my face mask.

The problem was that the lady’s grilled fish arrived blackened and a little over-cooked. They declined the server’s repeated offer to make it right and continued griping after she turned to help another table. When she returned to check on them, they demanded to speak to the person in charge. Learning no one was available and in her earshot, they sneered, “I can’t believe no one is in charge. The lunatics are running the asylum.”

Over and over again they bellyached, alternating between taking shots at the food and service until the young lady was bawling behind her mask. I wanted to verbally thrash them myself. I probably would have if I hadn’t been wearing my Tribe of Judah – Jesus is Lord shirt. We did our best to appreciate our server, encourage her, and bless her despite the hostility coming from these people. Kelli told her she was doing a great job, tipped her well, told her God wanted her to know that He loved her, and hugged her as she cried in her arms.

The cancel culture thriving in our land today refuses apologies and promises to make things right are never enough. The mystery is that so many that live in glass houses are the first ones to pick up the rocks just like this family that looked like they could have stepped right out of the movie, Deliverance. I kept waiting for the banjo to start playing. Their child was a holy terror and Dad and Grandma’s language would make a rapper blush. Like so many in the world today, they didn’t realize they’re disqualified from removing the speck from the eyes of others because of the logs in their own eyes (Matthew 7:5).

The story of the prodigal son reveals the contrast between the heart of the Father and the cancel culture. The son in the pigpen wasn’t the only prodigal in the story. Unlike the Father who looked for the return of his son, ran to him, and moved quickly to restore him, the brother, unable to see his own fallen condition, was actually upset that his father did not cancel him. That’s the difference. The Father is in the restoration business, not the cancellation business.

The Apostle Paul tells us “to clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). With all the craziness and challenges facing our communities and nation right now, we sure could use more compassion and less harshness – more restoration and less cancellation. Let’s choose not to be the customer from hell, the student from hell, the employee from hell, or the church attender from hell. Let’s do good, and when we see it, overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Let’s all make the quality decision to join the Father in the family business!

When Believers Hurt

Live long enough in community with other believers and you will experience some type of hurt, and you will no doubt be the source of hurt at some point.  We have all received the Judas kiss from someone, and we have all at one time or another been the one doing the kissing. Throughout Scripture we also see individuals like Moses, David, Paul, and Peter who at times were on the receiving end of the hurt, and at times were the ones dishing it out. We as the people of God and particularly the body of Christ, are not dysfunctional because we experience hurt or inflict it, we are dysfunctional because of how we too often handle it.

This is why it’s vital that we understand and apply the grace-filled and mercy-filled Scriptural pathway when believers hurt. When the commands and principles of Jesus are followed, the result is healing, restoration, unity, anointing, and fruitfulness (Psalm 133). When the principles are not honored the result is strife, confusion, and every evil work (James 3:16). When the teaching of Jesus is dismissed it opens the door for believers to be defeated and to damage their witness among unbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:7-8). Paul warned it would be better to be wronged than to be compromised in this fashion. When the instruction of Jesus is not known or ignored it puts the believer in a position to be taken captive by the enemy to do his will – to become his tool rather than an instrument of the Lord (2 Timothy 2:24-26). When we exempt ourselves from Jesus’ teaching on this matter we set ourselves up for the repeated destruction of relationships when we are called to model his love (John 13:35; 1 Peter 4:8). Finally, when we choose not to apply his directives we neutralize the power of the keys to the kingdom, including the prayer of agreement, and binding and loosing power and authority (Matthew 18).

The pathway is described by Jesus plainly in Matthew 5 and 18 and involves a series of spiritual steps that are outlined for the sole purpose and reason of restoration and the preservation of relationships among the brethren. The pathway prescribed by Jesus and its honest and deliberate application by believers does not invalidate the one who is hurt or trash the one who did the hurting, but provides wisdom, counsel, and supernatural power to bring people back together.

The first step, if practiced, has the power to quickly defuse and protect relationships. It simply calls for the offending party to go to a brother that has an issue with him or her and seek forgiveness and restoration (Matthew 5:21-24). The Scripture teaches that we are to leave our gift at the altar until restoration is pursued. This more than implies that we deceive ourselves when we think we can be in strife with others and pretend that everything is fine with our walk with the Lord. In reality, our horizontal relationships impact our vertical relationship with God. How many issues would be resolved and resolved quickly if we followed this teaching with conviction.

Second, if this does not happen, the offended brother is to go to the individual and share the grievance just between the two of them (Matthew 18:15). In this day of instant communication through social media and the blogosphere, this simple principle is too often ignored or rejected. When we violate this mandate we make it hard, if not impossible, to achieve restoration.

Third, if the individual does not respond, then we are told to bring along one or two other witnesses or people who have first-hand knowledge of the incident involving us (Matthew 18:16), rather than people we have told about the situation (and certainly not people we have sent an email, tweet, text, or Facebook post or instant message about the matter). Again, the goal is to bring healing and restore the relationship rather than putting together our own posse of sympathizers who may agree with us.

Finally, if we fail to achieve reconciliation through the taking of responsibility by the offending person seeking restoration, or by going to the offending party personally, or by bringing one or two personal witnesses to the situation, then the matter should be brought to an individual or individuals that both parties would agree constitute spiritual authority or government in their lives (Matthew 18:17). This is made plainer and simpler when both individuals are in the same body, but still possible when there is agreement as to the right of an individual or individuals to speak from a position of spiritual authority into the situation to navigate and work towards restoration and healing. If reconciliation fails at this point, Jesus instructed such a person to be treated as a pagan or tax collector (Matthew 18:17). We need, however, to be honest at this point and reflect on just how Jesus treated the pagan and tax collector. The story of Zacchaeus makes plain Jesus’ behavior and his intent that we should continue to love and reach out with the hope of life transformation and restoration (Luke 19:1-10).

The question many believers would have is what they should do if the individual in question is either not available or no longer living. The question is also what they should do if there are no true witnesses to the situation or there is no clear spiritual leadership able to steer the process. We always have the Lord to entrust the matter to expecting him to bring healing and to work in and through the situation. We also have people with integrity and honor who can help guide us through the process without enabling us in our strife, excusing the hurt, or vilifying the offender.  We must make certain, nonetheless, that we do not embrace and employ current social norms and modern means of communication that violate the teachings of Jesus, that facilitate the transmission of feelings and opinions without the benefit of context, tone, or nonverbals, and that engender strife rather than promote healing and restoration.

We are the end-time Church with amazing opportunities, tremendous responsibility, and unprecedented warfare and persecution. In the process of fulfilling our Father’s will we will be hurt, and we will be the hurter. At those times, let us value the principles of the Word of God, relationships among the people of God, and the benefits of handling hurt properly so that our witness is intact, our influence is sizable, and our power discernable. During those times you are the hurt or hurter, the kissed or the kisser, do not exempt yourself from the prescription of Jesus and you will see the miracle of restored relationships.