Today I would like to try to address concerns expressed by a relatively young Christian who has been attacked. The attack on the human level came in an email which was critical. It called the recipient a “bad Christian” apparently based on incorrect and/or old information.
Remember we battle not against flesh and blood. Spiritual forces are at work here. Satan knows that young shoots are the most vulnerable. A gardener knows that very new sprouts need to be protected before being placed in the Garden. Satan knows that the new Christian doesn’t have enough experience to be confident in her relationship with Jesus or be sure of the reality of forgiveness. God puts our past as far from us as the East is from the West. Other Christians…not so much.
So how do we respond?
First we pray. Before you skip over this step. Think about it this way. When attacked and hurt, isn’t talking to a good friend an excellent response? That’s what prayer is. Spend some time with the Lord and listen for His guidance.
One of the subjects of this prayer might be help in separating hurt from truth. An attack can be particularly hurtful if there’s an element of truth. If someone calls me fat or bald, it hurts a bit more ’cause it’s true. Consider carefully the particulars of the truth. Are there some elements of what is being said to us, that may really be a word from the Lord? If so, we need to learn from that part of the message and toss the rest.
Plan and execute correction. For anything that you decide is true. Make a plan to make it better. Remember that grace isn’t just forgiveness; it’s also the power to change. He can change in you what needs to be changed.
The next subject of prayer should be the hurtful speaker. Remember that hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is. If someone is taking the time to criticize, it’s possible there is at least some element of real concern for us, even if the method utilized is poor. Even if there is no such concern, we are told to pray for our enemies. The best initial response to conflict is always to pray for the person attacking.
Consider response. I am a defense attorney. I am excellent at defending attacks. I can usually spot the weakness in an argument. So my initial gut response to an attack is to construct a well-reasoned and potent defense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s wise to analyze the correctness of any attack made against us. It’s not always wise to communicate that defense. As much as we want to “clear the record,” we need to carefully and prayerfully consider how our prayed-about response will be received. We are seldom in a win/lose situation when criticized. In most cases, no response is best.
Forgive. First forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for your angry response. Forgive yourself for any sin that may form a kernel of truth in what was said about you. Forgive the criticizer. Unforgiveness does no damage to the unforgiven. It harms only the one who harbors it.
Move on. One of the worst things about a personal attack is that we tend to obsess about it. It not only hurts us but robs us of all we should be doing because we spend all our time nursing our hurt. Ask Jesus to help you move on. What one person says or things about us, is a sand on the beach compared to what Our Lord thinks. I watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy last night. A woman who had been saving herself for marriage stumbled. The saddest part was the next morning she said she had held out because she loved Jesus and now Jesus hated her. Hollywood and many of us don’t really know Jesus and the nature of His love and forgiveness. Learn from your past and move on.
Use the incident as a reminder how evil a condemning word can be. We have all be victims of condemnation; and have also been the source of condemnation. Make part of the lesson learned that we need to be so careful of every word that comes out of our mouths. There are times to encourage and even point out failings to brothers and sisters. But such should occur only after careful prayer.
Remember: Just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said. How many times do we say something that we instantly realize caused hurt, and is unlikely to do any good, and defend ourselves with the “But it’s true.” response. Truth is no defense to inflicting hurt.
So don’t tell me I’m fat, ugly, old or bald.
Hope something here helps.