From time to time people like myself - Christian leaders, pastors, teachers, etc - get nasty emails. I understand this. After all, we ought to be passionate in our Christian convictions and feel strongly about our beliefs, so it makes sense to me that when our beliefs are challenged we respond aggressively.
I dont't think it's right, and I'm positive it's not the model Jesus established for us, but I understand where it comes from. It's a mix of godly passion and thoughtless immaturity. It's zeal, tainted by flesh.
We all wrestle with the Spirit, trying to cooperate with God to subdue our fleshly impulses. We all fail in some regard. Thank God there's grace for that, and for us too.
But it is ironic when the occasion for the victory of flesh-over-spirit is either church-related or pertains to some aspect of doctrine or Christian living.
That's ok, though, because God's grace still extends to irony, and I'm praying that I, too, will become more gracious and more quickly overlook offenses.
I'm writing all of this as a reminder to myself, by the way, that I have been forgiven of much and am now required to be more forgiving.
I am happy and grateful and thankful to God that I don't get offended easily, but am ashamed at the things that catch me off guard and make me angry. Usually, if I can see something coming, I am well-prepared to handle any scenario with grace (I'm thinking of church conflicts, interpersonal squabbles, confrontation, miscommunication, etc). However, if something catches me by surprise - especially a certain quality of 'somethings' - then I immediately get super-lightning furious.
And I shouldn't.
It is evidence that I must continue to actively and aggressively welcome the Spirit to transform me with the utmost urgency.
Anyway - the thing that makes me so angry and so often catches me off-guard is a religious spirit. How did Jesus ever love Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin)?
More importantly, how can I learn to love them?
I think I've got the 'don't condone their hateful behavior' part figured out. I feel pretty good about 'challenging them on their self-righteousness.' But what Christ-in-me really wants is for me to genuinely love them in all truth, sincerity, and grace.
I must love the anonymous person who writes me a letter, delivers it at night, and calls me a hypocrite.
I must love the blog commentor who accuses me of being abberant and sinful because I capitalized "Jacob" but not "god" in a blog post.
I must love the seminary student who accuses me of being a heretic when I don't use either the King James bible or the ESV.
I must love the fundamentalist who says I serve Satan and am a false prophet because I like rock and roll, smoke a pipe, and wear jeans to church.
I must love the kid who thinks I'm not biblically grounded because I only read 4 verses of scripture one sunday, or because I read those verses in the middle of my sermon instead of at the beginning.
This feels like it's getting ridiculous.
Apparently, I'm not allowed to continue hating anybody.
Actually, let's not abbreviate...the person telling me I must abandon the path of scorn and derision is Jesus.
There will never be an end to "those people," though I do hope that the folks who are now among that group will mature beyond it, just as I hope that the ones who replace them will grow beyond it more quickly.
There can, however, be an end to my surprise. There can be an end to my anger.
I would love to see that version of myself, and choose to be thankful and glad every time I see evidence of Christ-in-me growing stronger, even if what occassions that evidence is the reckless accusation of others.
After 6 months or so of no critical emails, I received 2 this week. I was able to quickly dismiss them as emotiomal and unfounded, but the experience reminds me of how much God still needs to do inside me to deliver me from my flesh.
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