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.

Spiritual Crack

Addiction specialists tell us that one hit of crack or meth can cause a rewiring of the brain and a lifelong addiction.  One moment the individual is enjoying meaningful relationships and pursuing their goals in life.  The next moment nothing matters but finding that next fix.  Family no longer matters. Friends no longer matter. Dreams no longer matter. Pleasing God no longer matters. Before and after pictures of addicts show the devastation of drugs as users experience accelerated aging, hair loss, sunken cheeks, hollow eyes, and rotted teeth. Addiction is not a pretty picture.

Most Christians will never face the risk of domination that comes with taking that first hit of crack or meth, but they do flirt with a spiritual drug just as dangerous and addictive.  That drug is called strife.  I have witnessed solid Christian people make the decision to take a hit of this spiritual crack to nurse a wound or offense not realizing they will spend perhaps the rest of their lives serving that strife. In many ways, the drug of strife is the worst drug of all because it becomes more potent the longer it is in your system.  As illicit drugs make a person look hideous on the outside over time, the drug of strife makes a person look hideous on the inside.

To be in strife is to be at war with another person in one’s heart characterized by conflict, discord, antagonism, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Paul warned Timothy about the dangers of strife declaring, “The servant of the Lord must not be in strife” (2 Timothy 2:24).  The person in strife is actually taken captive by the devil to do his will. He captivates our lives, our hearts, our time, our thoughts, our energy, our faith, our perception, our relationships, and our destiny. James said, “For where envy and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work” (James 3:16). Strife, just like crack or meth, opens our lives to a world of destruction and devastation.

It is, however, possible to protect yourself from spiritual crack.  First, count the cost of potential addiction because no one expects to become a strife addict.  Second, guard your heart so that when the opportunity to get in strife comes, you have the power to just say no. Third, reject your pride because pride, not a pipe, is the delivery system that gets strife into our system. Fourth, practice mercy and forgive quickly because slow forgiveness increases the likelihood of strife. Finally, stay away from strife pushers or those who peddle strife like some peddle drugs.  It is hard to believe that any Christian would want to get another believer addicted to spiritual crack, but it happens all the time.  My college roommate kept a bag of various drugs in his closet to sell to students who knocked on our door all hours of the night.  I couldn’t move out and away from the pusher fast enough.  Believers need to do the same with the peddlers of spiritual crack.

 

 

The Sin Killer


To sin is to miss the mark and fail the standard and expectations of God.  Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 warns us that “The wages of sin is death.”  The good news is God didn’t leave us in our sin, misery, and future destruction, but in his rich mercy, he sent Jesus to be a sacrifice for us all (Ephesians 2:4).

Mercy is not just a simple religious platitude or concept, but a spiritual force that when released impacts and changes us by mitigating the punishment for sin, and by moving to alleviate the distress that sin caused.  Sin is a killer, but sin has a mortal enemy.  Mercy is the sin killer, and that sin killer is available in unlimited supply and renewable daily (Lamentations 3:22-23). God’s mercy provides power to help the believer to do three very important things regarding sin.

First, the mercy of God gives us the power to admit our sin. Like the thief on the cross, or the woman at the well, or Zacchaeus the tax collector, the mercy of God empowers the individual to admit sin and repent. The desire to admit the failure and repent is a privilege and indeed the mercy of God because it is the pathway back to the Father and because there is no healing in denial. Like the Psalmist, we should be completely honest and transparent: “I said I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” (Psalm 32:5).

Second, the mercy of God gives us the power to quit our sin.  Jesus granted mercy to the woman taken in adultery saying he would not condemn her. Unfortunately, many people today stop too soon in the story forgetting that the same Jesus that refused to condemn her also made a demand on her to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  When Jesus grants us mercy from sin’s punishment or consequences, that very same mercy provides the power to quit the sin. That’s why Paul told Titus to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2:12), and why Paul urged the Romans, in view of God’s mercy, to offer up their bodies as living sacrifices, holy land pleasing God (12:1).

Finally, the mercy of God gives us the power to forget our sin. The Scripture says Paul was extremely zealous in persecuting the church until his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). His reign of terror against believers included arrest, incarceration, and even murder.  As a result, Paul was plagued with regrets stirred up repeatedly by a messenger of Satan.  But the accuser of the brethren is no match for the mercy of God that gave Paul the ability to forget what was behind and press forward in his life and calling without a sense of condemnation, guilt, or shame (Philippians 3:1-14). Mercy alleviates the distress caused by sin, and part of that work is the Lord scrubbing our consciousness of our sins and failures so that we can walk in righteousness mentality instead of sin consciousness and condemnation.

Hi, Peter

The Bible says, “And Simon he surnamed Peter” (Mark 3:16, KJV).  The name Simon means a piece of grass, a reed, weak, and easily pushed or manipulated. Peter, in contrast, means a rock, stable, fixed, established, and strong.  It seems like such a minor piece of Scripture, but in reality it is an explosive revelation about the heart of God.  Just like Jacob called his son Benjamin (son of the strength of my right hand) refusing to allow his dying wife Rachel to call him Benoni (son of my sorrow), Jesus named Peter not for what he was, but for what he would become.

Despite his new name, Peter often reverted back to Simon moments throughout Scripture, including proposing the building of three shrines in honor of the transfiguration, sinking in the water after taking his eyes off Jesus, being rebuked by Jesus for saying he would not die, refusing initially to allow Jesus to wash his feet, boasting he would never deny the Lord, cutting off the ear of Malchus in the garden, and then ultimately denying the Lord three times.

The truth is we all, despite the new birth in Christ, stumble and have our own Simon moments.  But Simon moments do not change the Lord’s mind about our potential and destiny.  Jesus has mercy when we act more like a Simon than a Peter. After Jesus’ resurrection, the angel of the Lord told those at the tomb to tell the disciples AND PETER to meet Jesus in Galilee. This simple statement made it clear that Jesus had not given up on Peter.

But Simon had to do a few simple things to get the Peter back.  First, he had to show up.  Too often condemnation and shame keep us away from God’s love and mercy.  We don’t need to give up, we simply need to show up (John 21:1-14).  We don’t know what Jesus said to him that day, but I can imagine (as Leslie Hale suggested) Jesus walking up to him and saying these simple but powerful words, “Hi, Peter.”  Believers may fall seven times, but they get back up (Proverbs 14:26).  As Micah 7:8 says, “when I fall, I shall arise.” Our victory comes in just getting up and showing up even when we don’t feel like it.  Showing up means we receive the mercy that is available to us.

Second, he had to grow up.  Our Simon moments are really just a developmental and maturity issue. Jesus challenged Peter to focus on loving, caring for, and feeding his people (John 21:15-22).  The Simon moments in our lives become scarce when we mature and begin to focus on the needs of others. We all have Simon moments, but God help us if we are not merciful to others when they have them too. Growing up means we share the mercy we have enjoyed with others. Peter would eventually say that growing up would keep believers from being unproductive and ineffective, and would keep them from falling (2 Peter 1:8-11).