But what about…

Grace 101

There are times when the preacher goes from preaching to meddling.  Some people might think of this post as meddling.  You might be right.

Jesus told us to treat others in the way we would want to be treated.  I think there’s a reason He said that.  It’s because you will never receive what you are unwilling to give to others.

You see, the hardest part of the path is not what we find in the church or even in our judgment of ourselves.  The part of the path that is least likely to receive the message of grace is our judgment of others.  We see the sins of others more clearly than we see our own.  We sometimes have less patience and forgiveness for others than we would like to experience ourselves.

Often, when I talk with people about grace, the fact that God has dealt with our sins and no longer holds them against us and has done everything necessary for us to be saved, I get a response like this: “That’s nice but what about…?”  The example given is usually some behavior observed in others that is offensive to the person.  Usually it’s something the person doesn’t see in himself.

Can you live with your girlfriend and still be saved?  Can you drink to excess and still be a Christian?  Can you be a part of XYZ church and still go to Heaven?  Can you smoke, cuss, look at porn, cheat on taxes, steal cable TV, lie, drive badly, or have doubts about some facts in the Bible?  If these behaviors won’t keep a person out of Heaven, what will?

It is very difficult for us, even with an understanding of grace, to let go of the judgments we learned.  We have invested in a game that measures success on the basis of doing better than others.  Notice that it is not doing well, not really.  No, we have trouble believing that we can do well, but we sure can do better than some of the people we know.

Listen, I do this.  I suspect we all do.  I know grace teachers who proclaim boldly the love of God and sufficiency of the person and work of Jesus but criticize and complain about other people’s behavior.  I know that there are certain things that trigger my irritation and are hard to ignore when it comes to letting Jesus deal with His people.  After all, they are only accountable to Him, not to me.

Why do we judge?  Some of it comes from the values drilled into us by parents, church, or life.  We see certain behaviors as wrong, simply because we were taught they were wrong.  Some people, according to our prejudices, are unacceptable because of those behaviors.

And some of this comes from the energy and frustration we spend trying to avoid the passions and temptations that come along in our lives.  We work to stay away from sin, and then we become frustrated when we see others who don’t seem to try to avoid it at all.  We are especially tested when we are supposed to understand that Jesus accepts them just as He does us.

But listen: how will we ever really accept the truth about the way the Lord accepts us if we can’t believe that He accepts others the same way?  If He rejects one because of a certain behavior, then why would He not reject us when we do the same thing—or anything else that is sin in His eyes?  We will not receive the joy and peace of knowing the love of God if we don’t see that He accepts all people just as He accepts us.

Yup, that’s meddling.  Lord help me to remember this throughout the day!

(Since I wrote this post, I have received a comment on the previous post that has prompted me to add this paragraph.  When others hurt us, they are accountable to God for their sin.  If they truly belong to Him and He chooses to forgive them, that’s His business because He is their Master and they answer to Him.  But that doesn’t make their actions less evil or sinful.  God is not the Author of evil nor does He condone evil done by the hands of His people.  We can acknowledge this without being legalistic or unforgiving.  It is certainly true that Christians can hurt each other and participate in the work of the evil one as we operate in the flesh.  There are many admonitions against believers hurting each other in Scripture.  If we fail to understand that Christians can do things which are evil, we will misplace the blame for that evil.  Instead, we must allow the Lord to love and forgive as He wills and trust His servants to His hands.  He may discipline or change them, but He will not stop loving those who are His.  And remember, not all who claim His name are His.)



Filed under Grace 101, Relationship

8 responses to “But what about…

  1. Helen

    Thank you. I have to be reminded of that God loves us all. I can choose in the presence of love, or leave the presence of anyone in my life that will deliberately hurt me, use me, objectify me, hate me and treat me less than I deserve to be treated. Care of the soul. Happy trails, God Bless you, but get out of my life!

  2. Fellow Survivor

    David, I agree with everything in your post. Our responsibility is to understand that all were created by God for His purposes, and we are not privy to those purposes. I guess a big part of being a believer is having the blessing of being convicted when we sin which leads us back to the proper path. The people we all write about on this site, spouses, friends, etc all lack being convicted in their hearts for the way they treat us, while we would feel like a bug if we treated others the way they treat us. I was/am an N target and so I have to be very careful. I am a rare breed, the Empathetic, sensitive male. Because I give of my time, resources, and energy easily, in my next relationship I have to be on the lookout for the takers that never give back.

    • Repol

      Fellow Survivor, I just came back here to ask how others deal with making new relationships. I am, of course, not looking for or talking about romantic relationships, but just any new relationships.
      I feel so (newly) fearful and suspicious of people that, while I am lonely and want to have close friendships, and while I believe one aspect of the the true calling of the church is to love one another genuinely, deeply, meaningfully, I am sort of paralyzed by this fear and suspicion.
      I feel like I will honestly die a physical death if I take one more blow. But I want to love and be useful to others. I don’t want to sound like *I* am somehow essential to someone else’s good or maturity, like I have some special spiritual task. And yet, God does say the body is made of many parts, and each is important. So I want to be my part.
      I am taking my second graduate school class now. It is an online only class. We read or listen to online lectures, and write responses in an Internet forum, and then we respond to one another’s posts to move discussion along. The professor meets with us online about once every two weeks.
      I really hoped to make some new friends through my course of study, with other believers who are looking to build their education to use their faith. So far, one other classmate has commented on my submissions, and he has been so encouraging and warm, even when he was suggesting a small disagreement with one of my definitions.
      My first response was, “Great conversation. Nice person!” and I responded to thank him. But my second response was, “Why is he picking me to be nice too? He must be a narcissist. I shouldn’t have responded. He might take that as an invitation to consume me.”
      I feel like my humanity or ability to exist in community with humanity has been taken from me. I’m only safe alone because I can’t trust anyone else to be kind or honest or selfless or just normal. And I don’t know if I can live that way either.
      I really want real friendships. But it’s just too dangerous out there. How do we ever get to the point of finding safe balance in real relationship with anyone?
      I’m not trusting God in these things. But I was trusting him completely, I thought, when I got into these two destructive relationships (my husband and the friend). So what does trust look like in moving forward in human interaction?

      • Repol

        This was prompted by Fellow Survivor’s comment at the end of his post, but really it’s intended for discussion with anyone here who has any insights into how to get out of the paralysis.

      • Fellow Survivor

        Repol, we are all looking for the same answers. I have read that we should not divulge to much information about ourselves to “new” potential friends until we really know them, because that information could be used against us in the future. One other thing that I am guilty of is I am a fixer. I see broken people and I try to help them with their problems. Is that bad? No. But when I begin anew seeking out a lifelong wife, I will make sure she has it all together.

        There are so many things we need to think about. 2 character traits I will have my radar on for are these. First, does the person do the right thing when no one is looking? That would indicate that they are internally morally motivated. AKA self control. Second, how does the person treat others in all stations in life? Do they treat the manager at a restaurant with respect but the waiter with contempt. I taught my daughter how to spot a person of character. How do they treat others that CAN NOT help them? This type of person values humanity for who they are and not what they can gain from them or how that person can help them get what they want. Oddly enough, the exact opposite of an N who only sees people for their utility value and not their intrinsic value as human beings.

        This was the exact opposite of my EX N who flat out told me she wanted to be married to a man with a 6 figure income and that she was hoping it would be me, but if not then she will find someone who does. Or better yet, she asked me if I would ever make enough money where she did not have to work? Pure utility value not a shred of humanity in those statements, and that’s 20 years into the marriage. She told me our life goals were just too different. All along I though the most important life goal at this time in our lives was to provide a safe, loving, happy home for our children. Anyway, they are all messed up in their heads which made us messed up in our heads. Crazy right. I think time is the key. We need more time to heal. Also, ask God to lead you into a place where their are safe caring people that you can hang out with. He lead you to this site didn’t he?!!!!!!!!!

  3. Jean

    Having this blog to read and respond to has been a gift worth keeping. We have all been hurt by others who use and abuse. I think the key is learning how to set boundaries and take care of ourselves instead of expecting others to do that for us. Finding safe people to be with is important. We should definitely look for them and keep a safe distance from the ones who are not, but nothing can take the place of learning how to protect ourselves and our children from users and abusers.
    I sometimes (or in my case, usually) focus on what others are doing without looking at my own problems / issues / sins. If we draw a circle around ourselves and realize that we cannot change what someone else does, only what we do, then we start working on what we can change instead of what we cannot. We cannot stop someone from bullying, being manipulative, or abusive in some other way, but we can learn to walk away. When I was growing up, it was easy to think that being nice to others would get the same response from them, but now some hard lessons have taught me otherwise. Now I know it is not my place to change someone else, that is up to God.
    This is not Scripture, but the principle is:
    “If you cannot make yourself what you would like to be, how can you expect to have another person exactly to your wishes? We want to see others perfect, yet our own faults go unattended.” – Thomas A’Kempis

  4. My narcissistic ex-husband is terribly judgmental. I become more like him during the marriage, because it helped him feel superior. I’m having to relearn how to think about people and I’m constantly reminding myself to stop the negative thought patterns. Frankly, as a divorced woman, I find that some church women make snap judgements about me. We all need to learn to focus on Grace.

  5. UnForsaken

    I had something to say, but it looks like you all covered it. God’s good love…it always makes me speachless!
    As for trusting Peaple, David’s archive articals has been a great help. And taking your time with friendship seems to heal and help. N’s hate space and “cool”, gentle friendships. They want it now, so you make them wait.

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