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Souful Winter Itchings

February 10, 2014

It has been a strange winter indeed.  So many things clamoring for my attention…  so many possibilities… so many opportunities… so many blessings… so many challenges.

I recall entering ministry some 28 years ago with the idea that I was called to simply share the grace I had received.  For the most part that has been easy.  I mean there has been so much grace extended to me, I’ve never run short of “funds” in my grace bank.  To be sure there are times when I am not sure there’s much left to go around but the minute I picture Jesus on the cross and the emptiness of the grave I recall that there will always be a grace balance in my account.  I can’t extend more grace than I have been given.  It’s not possible.  But to be honest I, like many others I’m sure, have recently been stretched to the breaking point in my ability to be gracious.  I feel like I’ve given it all… there is no more… I know there is but I’m just not feeling it…

Matthew 18 tells us how to resolve our differences. We go to the offending party.  If we don’t get satisfaction we take along a couple of other folks to witness the exchange (accountability).  If that still doesn’t work we call them on the carpet publicly (before the church).  And if they still don’t repent we cut them off (treat them like the sinner they are) and move on.  It doesn’t seem to be such a difficult matter. And yet, how often our personal pride, or our fear of rejection, or some other relational issue prevents us from having the kinds of discussions we need to have with one another.

For the one who is sinned against this can be very difficult, confronting another, hopefully in love, to tell them that they have sinned.  Several problems can creep into this, the role of rumor, our own self-interest, perhaps a misinterpretation of the facts.  And hence the need to confront privately, and then with a few others to check our bases before we go before the many.   Accusations seem all too easy a route to take today without these initial steps.  Talking about, instead of to, persons.  Confronting publicly in a crowd without ever having taken the time to approach the individual privately, or with a small group.

For the one who sinned this can likewise be difficult.  We may be surrounded by people who are quick to defend our reputation without regard for the truth of the situation.  We may have unintentionally left ourselves open to accusation by miscommunication.  We may have just done something wrong without fully comprehending how it impacts others.  Or we might just be in denial.  And hence the need to hear from the aggrieved individual personally and perhaps with others before going public.

So what happens when the one perceiving they have been wronged goes directly to the body, to the group, goes public with the accusation without discerning the true facts, without confronting the offending individual, without asking others for help in processing the perceived sin?  Even worse what happens when they are wrong.  It seems as if, in our American culture today, truth is a malleable matter at best and a casualty of self-interest at worst.  Communication is typically triangular.  And relationships as well as truth and integrity pay the toll.  This is very costly in ministry.

Jesus spoke well when he instructed those of us who consider ourselves to be believers to direct ourselves first to one another, then to a small group and finally publicly as a means of protecting everyone’s reputation.

In one such situation a relationship has been broken, all for the lack of one simple question which would have easily and in very short order clarified a simple two-word phrase.  But disregard of the courtesy of such a simple and respectful confrontation has left something of a mess.  And now the roles are reversed.  The perceived sinner has become the aggrieved one and may have to work through the steps the other one so casually disregarded.  The seeds of doubt within the larger group, however, have been cast.  Ill feelings seem to abide in a number of cases.  Walls have been constructed.  Motivations are being questioned.  Assumptions have been made.  And questions of personal integrity hang in the air.

Psychologists talk about fight or flight fantasies, but a recent read talks also in terms of faithful flight and faithful flight.

And my spiritual skin is dry and itchy from the winter of my soul…

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 12, 2014 9:38 am

    Thank you Glen…. some good food for ‘thought’. I myself am working on better understanding, better receiving, and better giving Grace – a long way to go! There was one prayer that I stayed away from and that was “Lord, give me more patience.” Now I want to add a 2nd prayer to avoid at all cost…. “Lord, show me how un-gracious I am, and help me be more like you.” Dangerous.

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