“THE HARDEST PART OF BEING A CHRISTIAN.” That’s the title of the three-week series we’re talking about in my Sunday morning Bible study group.
I taught the lesson last week: “We get a bad press.”
I had to change the focus at the last moment because our local newspaper featured our denomination in their Saturday morning editorial. The paper didn’t like the fact that our leaders postponed a decision about whether or not to welcome gay ministers into the clergy.
I could handle that discussion.
But I wanted nothing to do with leading this past Sunday’s session: “Dealing with disagreeable, mean-spirited Christians.”
The thought of leading that discussion churned my stomach.
I asked one of the others on the teaching team to take the lead. He’s a good friend of mine, and he knows why I don’t want to touch this topic.
I’ve had to deal recently with some professing Christians who don’t act like it. Based on their behavior, it would seem as though they are to Christianity what Judas was to Jesus.
I can’t even bring myself to speak their names.
My friend did a wonderful job of leading the session that he said was tough for him, too.
There was a lot of undercurrent to the discussion. Stuff that each of us have experienced, but weren’t able to talk about, even in a small group as intimate as ours.
We talked a lot about forgiveness.
Jesus was pretty clear about that.
“Forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (Mark 11:25).
Well, rats. That sounds like I have to forgive the Betrayers before God will forgive me. I sure hope that’s another one of the Hyperboles of Jesus.
Forgiveness, I suspect, is a decision we have to make.
Like getting a root canal, a colonoscopy, or a hemorrhoidectomy.
We just have to do it. We know we do. It’s in our own best interest.
Either way, it’s a headache or a pain in the butt.
- It hurts to not forgive. If we don’t forgive, we pus up. Anger rots us and our spirit suffers.
- It hurts to have to forgive. If we forgive, we give up. And who the heck wants to give up when everyone knows what we really want is to get even Stephen.
There are times when the concept of hell seems heartwarming.
I could be wrong, but I think God gives us the time we need to work through some of the anger – to start seeing the pity in its place.
We hate Judas for treating Jesus the way he did.
But there’s a point when we pity him more than we hate him.
There’s even a time when we could eventually say out loud that we forgive him.
And perhaps, in this lifetime, we might actually forgive him in our heart.
That’s the goal.
But forgiveness doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten what a toxic person this is. And it doesn’t mean we have to hang out together on a Friday night, drinking watermelon wine and playing Truth or Dare.
One approach is to Forgive ‘em, forget ‘em, move on.
I’ve written about this before:
Based on the response I got, it seems like this is a fairly widespread problem.
Most of us have people like this in our life.
For Christians, forgiveness isn’t really an option.
It’s a lifestyle.
And a process.
I believe every person is pretty much what he or she decides to be. Life is more about our decisions and acts of will than what our current culture would have us believe. Sometimes those decisions are agonizingly hard, think of Christ sweating blood as the Cross loomed near. I also believe that most of us — and I’m at the front of the line on this more than I care to think — see in things what we wish too. Are you drawn to the harshness of much of the Old Testament, or do you respond only to the gentler characteristics of Jesus? So, what to think of mean-spirited Christians? I think you are right, they have some soul-searching and spiritual discipline to work on.
Stephen M. Miller
Judy Chaney Slimmer
Thank you for your thought-provoking, honest, humorous witness to how challenging it can be to practice our faith. I guess that’s why it’s practice. Thankful for Grace that keeps inviting, challenging, and sustaining all on the journey.
Stephen M. Miller
I’ve come across numerous Christians who fail to forgive based on their feelings. I tell them that their feelings have nothing to do with forgiveness, that its about following Christ and his teachings and commands, and like you wrote, ” forgive ’em, forget ’em, move on. Have to admit, easier said than done.
And when its pointed out to me that some Christians are disagreeable and mean spirited, I ask is it fair to judge Christianity, and Christ, based on those who do not follow what He teaches? Has lead to some interesting conversations.
Stephen M. Miller