Jump Start # 2708
Proverbs 16:27 A worthless man digs up evil, While his words are like scorching fire.
Our mothers taught us that sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us. That little saying was help to get us through school. Kids can be cruel and they can say mean things. Bullies like to pick on others and intimidate. However, we found out later that broken bones can mend much faster than a broken heart. Things that were said about us stuck to us and for some that altered and even reformed the way they thought about themselves. As we became adults, we put aside mom’s saying but we sure found out that people can be mean. Co-workers can belittle, gossip and just be cruel. Even among brethren, some can be so judgmental, critical and condescending. Some leave worship services worse than they were coming in. And, some dread going to worship, fearing having to face and hear the stuff that ought never to be said.
Hurt feelings. It happens. It happens all the time. It’s enough for some young preachers to quit, and they have. It’s enough for some brethren to look for another congregation, and they do. And, those that love to be the big bullies at church create a spirit that often takes decades to overcome. Sometimes it even takes a few trips to the cemetery before things will change. And, worse, especially among brethren, is that this is allowed. People put up with it because they fear the bully.
It is easy to tell someone, ‘just get some tough skin. Don’t let those things bother you.’ But they do bother us. What are we to do when feelings have been hurt?
First, don’t you be the source of this trouble. It starts there. It’s easy for one to turn into what he is against. One bully creates another bully. Turning your cheek, loving your enemy, not taking into an account a wrong suffered, are all the powerful principles that ought to drive us as disciples of Jesus. We know better and we ought to do better. There is no place for bullies at church. But we know that they are there. They can derail all the good that a congregation is doing. They can kill plans and create at atmosphere of negativism. Just make sure that you are not this way.
Second, remember Jesus never treated you this way. Allowing a bully to drive you away from the Lord is wrong. The bully is wrong, not the Lord. Don’t blame Jesus for irresponsible people who claim to be His followers. God is good. He is good to you.
Third, when something unkind has been said to you, don’t respond at the moment. If you do, likely you’ll regret what you say. Anger is a natural reaction and that only makes things worse. Go home, cool down, think it out, pray it out. Maybe in a backward and offensive way, what was said was true. Maybe you need to do some adjusting to your attitude and behavior. There is a possibility that the person was wrong. They may be jealous. They may have a motive to hurt you somehow. They may simply not like you. You know where you are with things. As long as the Lord is pleased with you, it doesn’t matter. He may not like you. That’s his problem. You continue to do what is right and what the Lord wants you to do.
Fourth, it likely won’t do much good, but try to talk to the bully. Don’t do it before a crowd. One on one, and set up a time to do that. You may find out that he never intended it to be hurtful. If he has any heart, he’ll apologize and you may have a new friend. If not, you have tried to make matters right. Put some distance between you and him. If it continues, then it may be necessary to take it to the shepherds and get them involved.
The current culture we are in allows a person to be offensive, crude and hurtful until lines are crossed and then a simple, “I’m sorry,” is supposed to take care of everything. That may be the culture we live in, but as disciples we must walk according to Jesus and not modern culture. Many a visitor to worship has been run off by off hand comments that should never have been said. The golden rule ought to come to our mind before we say anything.
The scorching fire, from our passage will burn shrubs, trees and even houses. It will not pay attention to the value of things nor how destructive it is. A scorching fire may be put out quickly, but the damage left may take a long time to recover. And, with a scorching fire, resources and attention must be poured that way and other things tend to stop.
The Corinthians had trouble with these things. So heated were they that lawsuits were being drawn up. The joyful book of Philippians reminds us of two sisters that Paul named and told them to live in harmony. Get along with each other. We can push the limits of our relationships and even strain them nearly to the breaking point. Understanding that someone may be different than I am, yet pleasing the Lord is something to remember. He may use a different translation than I do. He may sit in a different place in the building than I do. He may arrive at a different time than I do. And, I can dress him down and give him my mind in order to get him to straighten up and yet, it just may be that I am the one who needs to be straightened up, especially in my attitude and my words. Look at the people around Jesus: former demon possessed people, lepers, Samaritans, Roman soldiers, Gentiles, women. For the Jewish heart, this looked like the island of misfit toys. Yet, loved by God, these folks were walking with the Lord.
Relationships can be hard. We can bump and bruise each other and be a bit touchy with one another. Yet, if we have the mindset of being the people of God, all of us, then we can learn to get along, help one another and be the mighty kingdom that Jesus wants.