October 29, 2009

Speakin' the Truth in Love

Let love be genuine;
hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
love one another with brotherly affection;
outdo one another in showing honor.
Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the LORD.
Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the community, practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another;
do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly;
never be conceited.
Repay no one evil for evil,
but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

Even if you are not a believer in the G-d of Israel, you can find some direction in these words. We all need to remind ourselves, in this self-centered culture and world, that the most important thing - the only thing that lasts - is the love we show to one another.

I have observed that the most difficult place to find acceptance and love is within a believing community. Strange, huh? I wouldn't have expected that. But somehow having knowledge of the all-knowing G-d makes people feel special and perhaps smarter than the uninformed or uninterested. So much so that they, at times, take it upon themselves to point out perceived deficiencies of others, their family, friends and neighbors. It's the stuff that repels the uninitiated from joining the community and causes believers to break fellowship and take their chances on their own.

Using Scripture to rebuke in an attempt to redirect is tricky business. Yes, Scripture has some hard things to say, no doubt. Said by a loving friend, Scripture can be a healing balm or a gentle hand guiding the way. To use Scripture as a club over the head of fellow believers is wrong-headed and short-sighted, even if what is being said sounds right. Judging your neighbor in ways that are insensitive, offensive and unnecessary is not loving them as yourself, obviously. Sure, there are exceptions of sinful behavior that require elders or shepherds to intervene - but that is the exception, not the rule. Remember, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict and admonish. He is very good at it, I might add.

Equally as devastating is saying things bluntly without compassion or care. Tough love needs to be saved for drug rehab centers, not a family of believers that spend any amount of time together. Criticism can be welcomed by one and cut like a knife to another; I have found that few are savvy enough to discern which way those words may go. And, by the way, who is cleaning up the mess of misguided criticism towards a hurting family member? I have watched criticism administered to the relief of the one speaking it, but also watched the pain that criticism caused. Are we being critical to serve our own purposes?

I firmly believe that self-righteousness is sin of a most egregious sort; it worms it's way into our thinking, telling us that we are closer to G-d than most and therefore see the need to correct others. We act as His mouthpiece, saving them from further sin and possibly certain destruction. How conceited and wrong. If the LORD has taken it upon Himself to reveal something to one, I say bless Him for it! But, when that one then takes it upon themselves to judge others who perhaps do it differently, then that is self-righteousness and it needs to be purged from the community. There is no problem with discussing halachic issues and differences of opinion; healthy debate is the best foundation for good relationships and trust within a congregation. But it's the self-superiority, judgment and disrespect that leads to hurt and distrust causing dissension and division.

A believer is mature and humble.

A believer is compassionate and understanding.

A believer is honest, trustworthy and loyal.

But more than all that, a believer is loving.


The tendency to turn human judgments into divine commands
makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world.

7 comments:

asl4god said...

Do you suppose that this is why the greatest commandments are to LOVE God and love our neighbor, NOT judge one another and be critical? Arrogance and haughty criticism are rarely welcomed in any instance. Who do we think we are, that we should choose that direction? Nice reminder for all of us!! I LOVE YOU!!

Ari C'rona said...

I couldn't agree more. Having struggled with the sin of self-righteousness myself in the past, I can say that it is egregious and harmful. There is no excuse for it.

I must say, too, that if I'd been told the hard things I've needed to hear in a bludgeoning way, I can guarantee we'd not be friends. Thank you for exemplifying our Master in that, my dearest of friends.

I love you. :o)

Mama Cache said...

Beautifully put, Liz.

Jedi-J said...

I'll be the first one to admit I am self absorbed but I did not know this until my diagnosis. Now I try to carefully go about my business in a little less absorbed way as to try and not bring to much attn to my difficulties.

Nitrocat said...

I will be the first to admit that I am far from perfect and my mouth gets me in trouble far too often.

However, I have often thought that the letterboxing community does a better job at being tolerant, forgiving and non-judgmental than the Church sometimes. At least on the surface.

S

Kaaren said...

My least favorite starts of sentences:

1) I'm not trying to be mean but...
(yes, you're going to be mean. Why even preface the mean comment with this?)

2) I'm just going to be blunt.....
(No, you're going to be rude, I can feel it).

3) How can I put this delicately....
(Wait for the punch to the stomach, please).

Unfortunatly, in my experience, this is what passes for consideration when telling people something unpleasant. I'm trying hard to avoid doing so myself. The older I get, the crankier I become. :)

Netanya said...

Very well put my friend. Those haughty,self righteous,over zealous are the ruin of a lot of baby Christians who had great potential to do wonderful things for our Master.Sad.I saw many driven from a church I used to attend.They've not been to one since. That millstone won't feel good around the neck of those that caused it.Sad future for those responsible. Why can't Believers focus their attention on the Enemy of their souls instead of each other.They really need to be humbled! To be on their face in repentence.They are in a dangerous self deception.Their future is not bright and grieves me greatly.