Friday, February 25, 2011

What do we do With The VILLIANS in Our Life?

Do you enjoy action movies where the villain finally gets what he deserves? The good guy wins and the bad guy losses. I find myself shouting—don’t let him get away with that? A whole other side of me seeps through and I want justice, vengeance, and recompense—I want blood!

In the story of our life we all have a few villains or antagonist we engage with. By villains, I mean people who wrong us, people who hurt us and are clueless concerning their actions; they’re family, co-workers, a pastor, a member of our church, a husband or wife, father or mother, a child.

When in life, we are mistreated; we might desire to see swift justice. That is normal human behavior. I chuckle when I read this scripture where the apostle Paul said, “Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. As for those agitators, “I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:11-12/Italics mine).

I’ve had that thought toward a couple of people in my life. I’ve also been disciplined by this verse, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,” (Proverbs 24:17). RATS!

Coming home from a trip, I sat with a Christian woman on the airplane. Our small talk soon turned into sharing our life’s history. She revealed her father had molested her and her sisters for years—hers stopped when she left for college. Her father was her villain. I asked how she came to terms with this horrific experience. She surprised me, when, from her heart came grace and forgiveness for a man—her father—who stole her childhood innocence and betrayed his role as a daddy to his daughter—although that grace and forgiveness came overtime.

Our antagonist is either intentional or unintentional, as they afflict our inner world. My newly found friend’s villain was intentional. The sexual abuse of his daughter was planned and thought out. Yet this woman found a place in her heart where she could, later in life, face him and challenge his behavior and through the power of Christ, heal her deep wounds.

The Word of God is full of directives like:

  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44)
  • “Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . .” (Romans 12:17).
  • “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble,” (1 Peter 3:8).

If we are honest, we have to admit, these directives are difficult to implement for certain situations? Loving our villains, not repaying evil for evil, being kind, and finding compassion and humility stretches us beyond our own capabilities. God did not put an “easy button,” in our heart when it comes to forgiving others and relinquishing our hurts. He is aware of our nature and sent his Holy Spirit as our helper (See John 16).

A person I knew continued to make inconsiderate remarks to me on more then one occasion. Maybe he thought he was joking but his remarks cut to my heart. A couple of times, I thought if I were a man I’d have walloped him in the nose. I finally cried out to the Lord, in anger, saying if this person represents your love, I want nothing to do with it. Often we can disfigure God’s love by the actions of others. Or even feel abandoned and rejected by God.

When I asked my airplane seatmate if she blamed God for her father’s actions, she said no. Most do, so I asked her why she did not. She remarked that God didn’t rape her, her father did.

What do we do with the villains of our life? I’ve found five venues I’ve used through the years:

1. Pray for them
I’d pray for them but this was not always a prayer of blessing. A woman, my family knew well, would say the most awful untruths about our son and us. So one day I got my Bible out and found a few scriptures suitable for the situation. I prayed them and asked God not to allow her to use her hateful words. It was reported later that her husband asked her to close her mouth. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests . . .” (Ephesians 6:18).

2. Have a Proper Perspective
The ground is level at the cross and we will all be judged for the good and bad done in the body—no matter who we are. Our Christian brothers and sisters are children of God and he disciplines those he loves—in his time.

Many moons ago a church friend felt I had done her an injustice. I prayed and knew my conscience was clear and although I apologized for the sake of reconciliation—nothing changed. Yet six months later the Lord convicted her. She called and apologized. [God] “Who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:19).

3. Keep a Distance
There is nowhere in the Bible, which says we have to fellowship with those that hurt us; or whom we disagree with. Boundaries are a good thing and putting boundaries in place, to protect our self, is certainly okay. If I knew there would be an interaction with that person, I’d make sure I was prayed up and in the right mindset. The choice to be around this type of person was up to me. Further, when I found I could not emotionally deal with that personality, I’d keep my distance from the relationship.

The Apostle Paul and Barnabas, “ . . . had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company,” (Acts 15).

4. Speak the Truth in Love
Sometimes something needs to be said to our Antagonist and it’s never easy. A family member of ours continued to hurt other family members; yet, no one called him on the carpet. Being who I am, I strongly felt his hurtful remarks needed to be addressed. He had already chosen to break his family ties. So there was nothing to lose or gain.
As long as our motive is directed by truth and love, not to do further harm, and to provide another’s point of view, than we must risk sharing what is on our mind and heart. This can be done in a letter, face-to-face, or in the presence of a mediator. Other times, it might be best to say nothing as the Lord warns—
    When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise,” (Proverbs 10:19).

5. The Goal, Let Go
There was a time I was angry with a clergy who continued to hurt and scold people as if he were their father. His leadership was more autocratic then a humble servant and shepherd. Many years later when speaking to a pastor about the hurt I felt—I experienced the Lord’s affirmation and knowledge that he saw. The significance that God was not “clueless on his throne” helped me to let go of needing to see justice. Letting go is releasing the need to see the individual get what he or she deserves. However . . . this is a process, which happens as we journey through healing as well submit the matter to God, sometimes with clenched teeth.

I think of Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar—who bore Ishmael for her, as Sarah was impatient waiting for God to fulfill his promise. Sarah’s jealousy caused Abraham to send Hagar and his son out to wander in the desert. But God comes on the scene, “ . . . Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is,” (Genesis 21:17). Sometimes we forget that God is El Roi—The God who sees.

All of us have villains; perhaps we’ve been villains ourselves. That is why Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). What he really is saying is, we all have a plank in our eye. There is a right and wrong . . . but it is not always up to us to “help” that person see their wrong, unless that is, God has confirmed and directed us to do so. I’ve always felt, when I’ve needed to confront someone, my responsibility was to first seek God’s direction before I acted, seek the counsel of wise people, then step out in faith and leave the results to God. And when I did, I had peace.

I’ve discovered through my scruffs, it’s my responsibility to:

  • Take care of my heart
  • Speak the truth when needed
  • Have a spirit of humility
  • Know that God knows, sees, and cares
  • Remember that God shows no favoritism
  • Assure that my conscience is clear before God
  • Ask God what I need to learn from this situation
  • When my mind revisits the matter, give it back to God every time
  • I must strive to see my villain through the eyes of my Lord—yet another exercise in trust and faith

 Furthermore, I know that I’m not “bad” for feeling anger, wanting blood, or feeling the need to wallop someone in the nose. The difference is, I don’t act upon those strong emotions—it might take me years but God gives me the ability and understanding to be free of my villains insensitivity, rudeness, and disrespect or anyway they have offended me without an admission of guilt. I’ve learned that I can still love the person but not like what they do. There is a difference.

Father God,
You are merciful, gracious, and loving . . . May we desire to be more like you. Allow us the time to put into proper perspective that you alone are our source and nothing that happens to us is out of your sight or reach. You can heal, produce peace, and help us to know your love that surpasses all understanding—“that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:19).