Practical Application of the Word of God
I have discussed this subject before in “Talebearing, Gossip, Criticism, and Condemnation in the 21st Century,” “Ignorance, Labeling, and Concretized Christianity,” and “When Christians Treat Other Christians the Way Job’s Friends Treated Him,” but there can never be too much said nor to learn on this subject because it seems to be an area where we as Christians habitually fall very short of God’s standard.
In doing so, we profane God’s – and Jesus Christ’s – name and we reflect the darkness of society around us instead of the light of God and Christ that we are commanded to reflect in Matthew 5:14-16.
The thing that really just boggles my mind about our treatment of each other as Christians is the total disconnect from scripture that we are supposed to be representing God, Jesus Christ, God’s kingdom, and His way of life.
With all the sniping, condemning, platitudes of dismissal and lack of concern and care, and self-righteousness (and, believe me, there is more than enough of that to go around) that many Christians do, we tell, by our example (which is our preaching the Gospel on a very personal and intimate level), other people this is how God is and how Jesus Christ is.
And who in their right mind would want to follow, emulate, obey, yield to, submit to, trust, and love a Father and an Older Brother who are like that?
I wouldn’t. As I’ve watched some of the most unbelievable and horrible behavior of Christians toward other Christians over the years, I have thought over and over, “If God hadn’t called me and given me His spirit, and these people were going to be ‘kings’ and ‘priests’ over me, I’d rather just die for eternity rather than to have them be in charge because I wouldn’t stand a chance.”
Here’s the bottom line on this kind of behavior among Christians. It’s not real to us. We don’t get it. We don’t read it. We don’t live it. And we don’t believe it. Jesus Christ said this Himself in Matthew 25:31-46.
Church of God Perspective, in a post titled “It’s Not About Platitudes When Confronted With Suffering,” opened the post with a piece of wisdom too few Christians have or use: “Even if we’re correct, it’s often better to shut up and say nothing.”
But how often are we even correct? Are we God? Are we Jesus Christ? Do we really ever really know what’s going on with and inside another human being, a Christian, in every nook and cranny of their lives?
The answer is “no.” No matter what we think we know, we don’t know anything really and we certainly don’t know everything. Even the person suffering doesn’t know that, although they know far more than all their Job’s friends, critics, and condemners.
The reality is that God and Jesus Christ are the only ones who know absolutely everything.
When we pour out our attitudes, our platitudes, and our condemnation on a spiritual brother or sister, we are, in effect, putting ourselves in the place of God and Jesus Christ.
Do we believe it? I don’t think so. It happens way too much and way too often to be otherwise.
The heart of the matter is the heart. And none of us can see anyone else’s heart. In Jeremiah 17:9. we are told that each of us has a heart we don’t even see clearly or always recognize as being as spiritually defective as it is.
God and Jesus Christ alone know the heart of each person.
God and Jesus Christ also know our attitudes, which are part of our hearts, just like they knew David’s at his lowest, Job’s at his lowest, Elijah’s at his lowest, and Jeremiah’s at his lowest.
Each of these people, most certainly included in the realm of the faithful discussed in Hebrews 11, expressed thoughts and emotions that were rebuffed, criticized, and condemned by the people around them. Fear. Desperation. Anxiety. Depression. Weariness. Despair of living. Despair of having ever been born.
Yet, what nobody saw, was that they were taking these to God and their faith and hope for relief/deliverance/rescue was in God and God alone.
But that constant imploring and searching for God and His will and His intervention didn’t take away the physical, mental and emotional suffering of the reality they were in at the time.
To believe that’s the way faith and trust in God works is fantasy. It is the epitome of magical thinking. And it is dead wrong.
On the same hand, as I go through the scriptures pertaining to David, Job, Elijah, and Jeremiah, I don’t see God and Jesus Christ telling them that the reason they’re in dire straits is because of their attitudes.
I don’t see God and Jesus Christ saying “if you had a better/different attitude, then We might do something.”
I don’t see God and Jesus Christ condemning them for their attitudes and ripping them to shreds because they are expressing real human angst during a prolonged period of trials.
Here’s the thing about assuming we know what someone else’s attitude is and that we know it’s wrong and that’s why they’re suffering and are going to continue to suffer.
The expression of intense pain – physical, mental, or emotional – is not an attitude. It is a manifestation of pain that it so intense that it spills over from inside us to outside of us.
It is no different from somebody getting physically hurt and moaning, groaning, and crying. For anybody that thinks otherwise, go back and study Romans 8.
An attitude is a concrete, unchangeable integrated part of who someone is, while an expression of pain is a temporary, fleeting overflow of angst. They are not the same thing anywhere in the universe.
Nowhere in scripture are the familiar platitudes “it’s not just getting through the trials, but how you get through it” or “attitude is everything in trials.” And when people use these, they are using them in reference to someone expressing the overflow of angst.
That by default means that the attitude is one of submission to God, but it doesn’t say you’re not going to have some pretty intense periods of angst along the way.
What the Christians who are platituding, attituding, and condemning fail to realize – and can’t possibly know because they are not God and they are not Jesus Christ – is that some days the definition of endurance and the sole expression of faith and trust in God is simply refusing to quit and putting one foot in front of the other, even when it seems to be a total waste of time and effort.
That’s too small for them. That’s insignificant. That’s irrelevant. “Oh, anybody can do that,” they say.
But for the person suffering, it’s the most gargantuan task facing them and accomplishing it takes every bit of energy and effort they’ve got along with the helping hand of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
That’s what humans don’t see: all the stuff in the background and on the inside that no one but God and Jesus Christ know about because they’re the only ones actually around to help, to encourage, and to support the person who is suffering.
And perhaps that is what makes the sting of either in-your-face criticism, judgment and condemnation filled with both platitudes and accusations about attitude or subtle and roundabout “advice” that does the same thing so excruciatingly painful and go so deep.
I can’t imagine that our Father and Older Brother are looking at this kind of behavior and dismissing it as “kids will be kids” nor that they are not angry themselves to see how blatantly and heartlessly we are willing to attack and destroy each other with our words.
There will be correction, because that’s what older siblings and parents do. My prayer is that this is one area of my life – there are many where I’m at the head of the line – where correction is never needed.
I also pray that we will correct ourselves. But we have to be aware that what we are doing is wrong before we can ever change it to what is right.