While out walking one day a local pastor noticed a young boy trying unsuccessfully to reach the doorbell of a house. The pastor decided to be a Good Samaritan so he walked up behind the boy, put his hand on his shoulder, leaned over and firmly pushed the door bell. Crouching down to the boy’s level the pastor smiles warmly and asks, “Now what, young man?” The boy looked at him and said, “Now we run!” That is how I feel about today’s topic. I am going to post and run.
In recent weeks I have written about the Biblical requirement for forgiveness and I have found out that not everyone agrees with my views. Some didn’t forgive me for saying you have to forgive! I am going to violate the principle espoused by humorist Will Rogers who said that “when you are in a hole, quit digging.” Today I am going to suggest that we all need to examine ourselves to see if we are getting trapped in victimhood. Some of the following thoughts were also explored in my book Bring’em Back Alive (look for it in fine bargain bins everywhere).
Some of you were abused by pastors who should have restored but chose to condemn you (or worse). Some of you have been neglected by churchgoers who should have cared enough to seek you and return you to the flock. But we must also acknowledge (time to duck and cover) the real possibility that sometimes we choose to remain victims. I am not going to deny that we are often victims of sinful, selfish and hurtful acts from those in and around the church. One of my prayers and goals for this daily blog is that we honestly search our hearts and prayerfully evaluate if we have, in fact, made a decision to embrace woundedness.
It is an incredible waste of our spiritual potential to fixate on how things could or should have been different. It took me about forty-five years to figure out the following information that I am going to pass along to you (at no additional cost) for simply reading this post. Are you ready?
Things are not different.
We can usually make a case that would persuade any jury that our treatment by other Christians should have been different. We can obviously make a solid case from the wisdom and conviction of scripture that things would have been different if Christians applied His words consistently. And yet there remains the unflinching fact that things are not different. No amount of time spent dwelling on how another churchgoer hurt me or should have done something different changes my situation. But the most natural thing to do is to focus on those unexpected wounds.
Imagine if you were shot and rushed to the emergency room. Would you spend all of your time worrying about who shot you? Or do you think your first concern might be to survive? I am pretty sure my priority would be to seek help and healing. Who shot me would be the least of my worries at that point. After healing I can concern myself with the shooter and whether justice is done.
Still, when we are victims of a shot from other Christians (or people in the church) we do seem to dwell on the shooter, not the healer. This is another strategy of the enemy who knows that healing is available. The last place Satan wants us to visit is the emergency room of God’s grace. In the case of Christians the act of healing allows us to leave justice in the hands of God and takes us out of the process. That is exactly where I need to be.
All of us can acknowledge intellectually that the offending pastors or churchgoers will be held accountable for their actions before a Holy and righteous judge. But that is a difficult concept to embrace when you are hurting. And there is that other factor that we cannot forget. C.S. Lewis wrote that we tend to treat Satan one of two ways…we either take him too seriously or we ignore his influence altogether. In this case I am going to suggest that we need to be aware of one of Satan’s great strategies. And that tactic is to keep you and me firmly in the grip of victimhood. Eugene O’Neill wrote that “Man is born broke. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.” Satan would have us forget that being broken is an integral part of God’s process and that God does, in fact, “mend us with His grace”. The Apostle Paul who begged for the removal of his affliction or thorn in the flesh came to an important realization.
“and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9 (MsgB)
Paul’s insight is critical when he writes, “I quit focusing on the handicap.” Sadly, we often choose to stop at the point of being broken. And the point of resignation is often heartbreakingly just short of healing. Emotional and spiritual hurts seem to engender a response unlike any other wound. With physical hurts we immediately seek help to heal. With emotional and spiritual wounds it seems difficult to move past focusing on the injury.
My prayer is that each of us will make the choice to focus on the Healer and not the shooter. It is a choice I am having to make in my life right now. But the truth is that God’s grace is enough. His grace is all we need. Would you make a commitment to focus today on His amazing grace?