Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When God's People Hurt...Each Other

Pain. It's something we are all familiar with to some extent. From paper cuts to broken toes to childbirth or kidney stones-- when something hurts we don't like it and we want it to stop. Now, in hospitals and doctor's offices all across the land there is this "pain chart." Sort of a timeline concept. They ask you to rate the level of your pain on the "timeline" with one end, the 0, being a happy face and the end, the 10, being all red and crying and sad. "That should just about sum it up," someone said in a board meeting. "Zero to ten and happy vs. sad. Next: let's rate hospital food from 'mildly disgusting' to 'put the cover back on the tray before I puke.'"


I TOTALLY understand why this chart is needed. When the medical professional needs to know how bad you are hurting, you can look at this chart through your tears and point with the unbroken hand at the "HURTS WHOLE LOT" face and he or she can know that you need the Big Pain Meds. And a cookie.

I can never really rely on myself and my own judgment with that pain chart though. For one thing, I can actually handle a lot of pain. I have a few things wrong that cause me to hurt. Most of the time. Another reason it's hard for me is that I know there always has to be some pain out there somewhere that is worse than what I am experiencing right now, so therefore I at least have to reserve 10 for that. Like if I were to lose a limb or be burned or something. Right there would be the 10. So my foot issue is about a 2 compared to that. Until the doctor looks at it and tells me that I should have had surgery 15 years ago.
Applying my pain to a laminated chart of smileys is just a throw of the dice.

Pain is relative. If it hurts and is only pain, then I'm good. I can put it in its cubbyhole of nagging and annoying and keep going. But when it's pain that is not physical; when it comes from deep within and is the kind of pain that brings grief and anguish, I tend to get serious about it.

I have found, in my time here on the planet, that Christians tend to handle emotional pain fairly well. We have a way of putting things in perspective, for we know our time here is temporary and that something more wonderful than we can imagine awaits us. So how bad can it be? Romans 8:31 reminds us that "If God is for us, then who can stand against us?" And when Chris Tomlin tells me that "the God of angel armies is always on my side" I fairly well rejoice myself right out of the car! I want to play that when I'm cut off while driving. Play it when I am having to interrupt the oh-so-important conversation between the eye-rolling teenage girls at Starbucks in order to get them to make me an over-priced iced tea. Play it loud and clear for those who talk about me behind my back. Kind of like a lingering perfume that wafts gently over to them and intrudes on their whispers long enough to help them remember that Jesus is listening and His angel army is on my side. Then maybe they sneeze.

Yes, we Christians know we will be talked about. Laughed at. Persecuted. The Bible warns us and promises us a blessing: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." (Matthew 5:11) We stand ready for that. What we aren't ready for, what we are always surprised at, is when it comes from our sisters and brothers. Yes, they are human and they sin.

But they know better.

We know it's wrong to cause pain. We know it because we are loved by a God who never, ever, caused anyone to hurt. My God never gossiped, He never deceived, He never intimidated. So when we are confronted by the sins of our own, OUR OWN, we are stunned. How could she treat me this way? Why is he being so mean? Our heart breaks because we thought, we really thought, we were family and we were special. We try to analyze the action. There had to be a reason for this behavior. It has to be something I did or said or didn't do or say...it gives us a feeling of dread and fatigue. This isn't at all what fellowship in the family of faith is supposed to be like. We wanted, we expected, the Love of Christ. What we got was the sin of the world. From a brother. From a sister. We feel pain, confusion, hurt. And we want it to stop.

But we have to forgive.
Funny thing, though, about forgiveness. It's easy to forgive the sins of the unsaved, the ones who don't know the Jesus that is ready to forgive them. The One and Only Who died so that they don't have to be trapped by this sin.

They don't know better.

So we can count that as our witness project and be Love and be Forgiveness. We can point the way and not shake a fist. It's the ones who know Him who make it hard. We have to forgive them, too. But we must also look to 2 Timothy and "correct, rebuke, and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction." You see, it does no good to suffer the hurt, get offended, and retreat away from the brother or sister. We must draw nearer and instruct, so their sin won't continue. That, my friends, is hard. But it's what you would want if you had been the one who caused the hurt.

Pray hard. Reach out. Correct. Rebuke. Encourage. GENTLY. And love.

Because we know better. 

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