Dealing with Offense

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
   Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
   and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
   and does no evil to his neighbor,
   nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
   but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
   and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 15

Recently a couple whom my husband and I lovely dearly, and who dearly love us but don’t know us very well, approached us to discuss their concerns over a recent set of back to back crisis that had occurred in our family.  While their intentions were honorable and intended to encourage and help us, they had the opposite effect. And I’ve been hurting over it ever since.

It’s easy to say, “Forgive them.”  And it’s easy to say, “Have mercy.”  And I know that I have tried to have both for them as I’ve contemplated their words and tried to humble myself to receive them.  Yet, my heart was not following the truth in my soul. I felt so much shame and condemnation, though our friends intended neither.  

Why did I feel like that?

After processing our feelings with each other, with God, with my counselor, and with some trusted and close friends, I realized something.  No matter what your intentions are, correction should never come at the cost of injury to another person. As verse four above says, it’s better to take on a hurt yourself, than to hurt someone else.  

Because our friends love us, and because they were concerned for us, and because they didn’t know us well enough to really know what was fully going on with us, they took it upon themselves to discuss the matter with people who they thought might have more insight into our circumstances.  This became the source of my first wound. Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth. Unfortunately, because the people they spoke to also didn’t know our situation very well, they were unable to offer a very accurate picture of our hearts.

Talking about the trauma in our family with other people only lead to more supposition on our situation, and offered no actual truth.

My second wound came in the translation further inaccurate suppositions.  Our friends, likely became more and more concerned for us as they spoke to more and more people who had witness glimpses of our recent trials, and perhaps glimpses of our past actions, and then drew conclusions about us regarding those glimpses.  Again, honest love and concern, led to an inaccurate transcript of all that had transpired. So, when our friends met with us, they had already established in their own hearts a general idea that there were certain issues and were then seeking to help us draw out those issues in confession and repentance.

This was a bad idea.  

They had formed an agenda based on love and concern, that had been built upon conjecture.  

Therefore, while their intentions were honorable, their method had been so tainted by poor information that they were unable to approach the situation with us in a way that truly expressed the love that they have in their hearts for us, and the genuine desire they had to help us walk through correcting bad behaviors.

I was captured this morning by Psalm 15.  It’s all about abiding with God and what dwelling with the Holy One looks like.  And David spells out what that looks like. It is walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in his heart, not slandering, not doing evil to his neighbor, not taking up reproach against a friend, who despises evil, honors those who fear the LORD, who takes on hurt himself rather than hurt another, who doesn’t put out money with interest, or take a bribe against the innocent.  But, the fact remains that we can do none of those things on our own. Only with the Holy Spirit of God, the Salvation of the Hand of God through Jesus, by the power of God the Father, can we even begin to mirror these things. Sure, we can try. But if we start to source our thoughts and actions on the opinions of others, we head down a road that leads to nothing but hurt, and the ramifications of that can be devastating.

I was devastated by the encounter we had with our friends, even though I know that was never, ever their intent.  

But because they had come by their information about the situation from others and not from us and from God, it was doomed from the start.  Fortunately, our Lord is a reconciling God. He is a God of healing, love, and restoration. So, even through the pain of that conversation and the subsequent days that followed, my husband and I began to find peace.  

We gained a deeper insight into how to walk the path of “speaking the truth in love” with a much deeper understanding of what that should look like.  I learned that how I source information is vital to reconciling a situation. My source must be the Lord and the people directly involved alone, not the opinion of friends or family, or even my own!  

I also learned that without a personal experience in a situation or deep relationship with someone, I’m not capable of bringing specific instruction or correction to a situation without first talking to the people involved.  Our friends sought advice from too many people before they spoke to us, and unfortunately that skewed the entire outcome. Am I saying we shouldn’t take counsel from trusted friends in the faith who have wisdom and experience?  Of course not! But, counsel must be sourced from the Word of God, and not the opinions of the people who have witnessed the incident. When our friends sought counsel, it should have been about how to approach the situation, not about the situation itself.  

How many times have I fallen into gossip by seeking counsel from someone I trusted and then falling into the trap of the enemy to start basing my opinions on a person without knowing all the facts?  How many times have I spoken to someone just to express my frustration or concern, when I should have just given it to God, or spoken directly with the person that offended me?

I’ve also been humbled, which I am in constant need of learning.  I’ve gained practice in patience and endurance when I’m misunderstood.  And I’ve learned that how others see me and interpret my actions is usually wrong, so I better be as “above board” as I can about my intentions, my actions, and my complete dependency upon God and not myself (or others.)  And that even when I think I’m right, I could actually be wrong.  Shocker!  I need to be humble enough to let the Lord show me things, without beating myself up or walking in shame or condemnation.  And if I start to feel shamed or condemned by another person, I need to speak up, instead of silently suffer.  Once I go there, I’ve lost touch with the Spirit of the Lord within me because of my hurt.

Most importantly, I’ve gotten the sharp reminder from the Lord, that my value cannot be measured on a man’s scale.  I’ve always tried to honor the Lord in my actions, and raised Him up when I’ve been called to account for myself, but I’ve also made excuses for bad behavior.  And I’ve allowed my heart to be swayed by pride, insecurity, and a desire to be accepted.  Of course I should always lift up the Lord.  I should always testify to His power at work in my weakness.  I just need to make sure that when I do that I am speaking from my weakness and not my pride.

I am accepted by God.  That’s all that matters. So, I will try to speak the truth to others with more love than I have in the past by trying to source my love from the Spirit of the Living God within me, rather than from any power of my own.  And I will try to receive the truth spoken to me in love, even if it is poorly executed, by sourcing my translation of those words through the filter of the Holy Spirit instead of my feelings.

Man, Daddy, that’s some deep stuff.  Thanks for helping me figure it out. I love you, Holy Spirit, for giving me peace.  And Jesus, you are my greatest delight. Because of You, I can do all things through You.  Even deal with hurt feelings. I feel much better, now, God. Thank you.

 

Set Your Face Toward Jerusalem

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
Luke 9:23-25

Father, the cost of following You is great.  It’s so great that most of the time we don’t even get it.  I don’t get it. It’s the complete opposite of my nature. Yet, You have given me Your Spirit and so in the depth of my soul I know Your Truth.  I know the path. And I know the cost. I’ve felt it. I’ve experienced it. The longer I walk on Your path, the more I see how much the world doesn’t understand it.

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”55 But he turned and rebuked them.
Luke 9:51-55

You fixed Your eyes on Jerusalem, Jesus.  And I, too, will keep my eyes fixed there.  Because Jerusalem meant death in the eyes of the world, but it means glory to You.  Jerusalem is Your Majesty revealed. It’s where Heaven and earth become one. It is Your city.  It is Your Kingdom. It is the place where Your promise to the world is fulfilled.

Sometimes it becomes hard to understand that Your eyes are fixed on the prize for us when we think You don’t see our needs or our pain.  Like the Samaritan village that rejected you, or the disciples who pondered which one of them was greatest, we look at You and say in our hearts, “What have you done for me?”  Your disciples were ready to destroy that village! They didn’t even know that they were being hypocrites. They weren’t being like children, ready to accept Your will and Your plan without an explanation.  They could only see the rejection.

A child doesn’t question your intentions toward them, or Your intentions toward anyone.  They just see Your face, accept Your love, and find the peace and joy that You offer. But, Lord, it’s really hard to put reason and logic of the world behind.  Living in this world hurts! From the moment of our birth we are moving toward death. Our lives become filled with obligation and work and a chorus of demands that tries to drown out Your peace.

46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
Luke 9:46-48

Lord, the one who is least among us, is the one who stops focusing on the praise of men or the world.  The one whose eyes are focused on You and Your Kingdom first is the one who finds peace. So, Lord, help me to keep my face set toward Jerusalem.  Your majesty is revealed there. And I will trust Your plan!

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33

Being Poor in Spirit

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’
Luke 8:9-10

You explain things so clearly to anyone who wants to understand.  I love that about You, God. The ability to learn and understand the mysteries and wisdom that come from You are found in the humility to put aside my own thinking and reason to be taught by You.  That was the problem with the Pharisees. Those lovers of the Law were really lovers of themselves and the percieved piety they recieved from the obedience to your statutes. But they were missing the point entirely!  If anyone hears your law and only obeys it to impress or feel better about themselves they are not catching the heart of what the Law has brought.

Paul talked about the Law making clear to us the Truth of who You are and are inability to have fellowship with You.  He taught that inevitibly Your perfect law made clear our failing annd pronounced death upon us. But it was our sin that brought death, not the law itself.  So acting out the Law, if it didn’t teach the person to know and understand Your heart and Your desire to bring forgiveness of sin, gained nothing from obedience to that law.  Without the faith to know that You are salvation, not the Law, a person is lost forever. They will never understand, will they? They’ll just be stuck in the death of their sin, instead of the life that can only be offered by You.  

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Romans 7:7-25

But being poor in spirit and humble in knowledge, gives me the right to learn and understand Your greatest mysteries because I’m willing to let You teach me.  As I recognize the deeper and deeper need for You to be my advocate in all aspects of my life, I find You willing and ready to teach me. And that’s how You used parables.  You showed people that if they were willing to be taught, instead of just having it all spelled out for them to figure out on their own, they could inherit a deep and meaningful fellowship with You that can be found in no other way.

But if a person is stubborn, and refuses to be taught, but only wants to lift up their own wisdom and understanding, then they can never learn even the simplest of lessons from You.  And of course the simplest lesson of all is that You came down to earth as a man to be our bridge between yourself and us. And anyone willing to follow You at all cost will find the richness of Your love, Your forgiveness, and Your eternal life.   So, that’s why the disciples had been given the ability to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God. Because they were humble enough to give up trying to find You or serve You on their own.

You love that, don’t You?!  You just love people to acknowledge that they need You and want Your help!  It’s not complicated. It was never supposed to be complicated. Help me to be poor in spirit like that!  Teach me to be humble and to learn from You. Don’t ever let me rely on my own reason above Your own. Help me to know the depth and mystery of Your Love.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Luke 6:20