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Thursday, January 9, 2014

.Hit by Friendly Fire: On Christians Hurting Christians.

The tear ran down my cheek, and I couldn't stop it as the anger and the shame of having spoken the words burned me. We were sipping our coffee and sharing our lives. We bared open some of the ugly stuff - the hurts we were enduring, and some of the beautiful stuff - the way God continues to reveal Himself in the hurts. The words that I had uttered hung in the air between us, and I sucked in a breath waiting for her response.

But why is it the Christians that always question us? Why is it that proclaimed Jesus followers treat us like we are crazy?

I nearly spat the words out of my mouth as the months of hurt and confusion came tumbling out into the light. She looked at me with no judgement, and her own hurts came bubbling to the surface, as her eyes filled with tears she said, I know. I understood that the same had been true in her lifeI bit down hard on my trembling lips, and tried to still my trembling heart. It is one thing to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth, because you know, that you know, that you know He is calling you, but it is quite another to be questioned and judged by those claiming to be your own brothers and sisters.

It stings. It burns. It humiliates. And once again the world doesn't know us by our love (John 13:35), but by the way we throw our own in the fire with our judgments clothed in we just have a few questions for you.

Why is this so? It is something that bothers me so much, and if I am not careful it can make me bitter and angry. I foolishly cling to the bitterness thinking that somehow it will protect those bruised, raw spaces in my heart. But the bitterness doesn't protect, it bites, and the spaces bleed and my heart pulses with hurts and wounds that feel like they will never heal.

I have been pouring this hurt out to God lately, and am rediscovering that this is really nothing new - my friend and I are not isolated incidents of hurt. We live in a fallen world - this should be expected. I should have known it was coming. Jesus, Himself, was the most questioned and judged by the religious people of His day. It was the religious leaders - the most religious people - who could not stand Jesus and what He was doing. Amazingly the immoral people - the prostitutes, tax collectors, rebels - they all flocked to Him. (Strangely enough we have found unbelievers have less questions about our call to Ethiopia.) But the people, who should have understood Him and His calling, who should have supported Him, they were repelled by Jesus.

It is ultimately what led to Jesus crucifixion.

We get questioned a lot about timing - how could you have moved so quickly from church planting to Africa? I truthfully don't understand God's ways, and sometimes I wish He did things cleaner, but it is honestly so that I don't have to face the criticism. It is easy for me to see how God drew us to Ethiopia, even using the brief months of the church plant, and it makes perfect sense when we reflect on all of the puzzle pieces. He has been drawing us for years. I am amazed that the people who rubbed shoulders with us and claimed to be our spiritual family could not see Him drawing us. Almost any conversation with Jim or I over the past few years quickly turned to Ethiopia, street kids, and following Jesus to the ends of the earth. But I have hashed that out already, and am not up to it again. It took moving us out of our comfortable to get us to say yes, but for Christians on the outside I suppose we look wishy-washy and not committed. Or something.

I wonder what the religious people thought about the disciples sudden change in call? Think about Peter and Andrew who were fishermen by trade. One day they were fishermen and then poof they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. (Matthew 4:18-20) Wow, that must have looked so crazy and uncalculated and foolish. I am guessing that people questioned their call - after all how could it change so quickly? Then look at James and John, who were also fishermen by trade - not only in one single day did they leave their jobs, but they also left their boat, their own father, and their hired servants to follow Jesus. They realized that their divine call was more important than any earthly obligations - or so it appears from the passage. (Mark 1:19-20)

Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:25 that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  Jesus told us that the world would know us if we loved one another – not if we argued against each other (John 13:35). I think the enemy delights in what we do to one another. I think he delighted in what the religious leaders (pharisees) did to Jesus. Instead of linking arms and building the Kingdom, while being unified in fighting the enemy, more times than not we are a house divided wielding swords and each other. At least that has been my experience.

I don't have a sweet way to wrap this post up with a tidy bow. Perhaps I should sit on it longer. Perhaps I shouldn't even publish it. I have the awful feeling that I am not alone in this, though. It just seems to me if we are being guided by the Holy Spirit, and they are being guided by the Holy Spirit - the same Holy Spirit, and if we are all loving God and our neighbor (which includes one another) then this hurt shouldn't happen.

I guess I am just plain tired of getting hit by friendly fire. 

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).

But I take comfort in knowing that Jesus endured pain and flack from those supposedly "on His side".

. . . He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me (John 13:18).

I cannot change people, so rather the conclusion to all of this is in my heart - how will I deal with this? I think, once again, the answer lies in denying myself. This is hard stuff. I don't want to run or build walls around my heart. I wish it didn't hurt so much, but I know my Jesus is inside of the pain - He is inside this deep sting that feels like betrayal. I am choosing to believe that this very thing that intends to harm us will be used by God to heal us. After all Jesus understands the sting of rejection, the burn of judgments, and the humiliation of being questioned yet again. 
Once again, I am handing this pain over to the One who understands, I am handing it to Jesus, and I am following Him wherever He takes me, no matter the cost (or questions).


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