We all have our inner battles. We all have that thing that haunts us, stalks us, and even follows us into our dreams to torment us. In some cases, there are several things. These are our secret and semi-secret struggles; the internal battles we fool ourselves into thinking we are the only ones facing. Because we have faced our struggle for so long, we accept it as a part of life, knowing we will eventually overcome it, but not being shocked at its presence.
While we deal with our struggles, the temptation is to demonize the fights another person is facing...
We trivialize their ordeals because we have already overcome those issues, or in some cases have never been faced with them in that particular formation. We allow ourselves to see the other person as weak, not being as dedicated to their fight as we are, or in some cases we believe that they don’t want to fight. We lob scriptures at them, mutter well-worn churchisms at them, and go on with our lives and our fights. We talk about them at our weekly gatherings, dissecting their struggles, belittling their pains as we strive to feel better about our failings in our wars.
When someone confronts us about our hypocrisy, we instantly go on the defensive. We quickly bring out well-rehearsed rationales that support our failings, why we need to be understood, why we need support, why our fights are not complete. We find isolated verses that uphold our right to dwell in our struggle, after all, “all have sinned and come short…”, and further more “in this life you will have troubles”. Sadly, those verses only apply to us. In the case of other people, we need to stand firm, calling sin a sin, denouncing publicly, decrying loudly, rejecting totally. We must “not let sin gain a foothold” after all. Our rallying point during these times is Jesus in the temple, angry, violent, unrelenting, complete.
But what if we examined Jesus as a whole, what if we used his entire ministry as our example. In Mark 5:21-43, we find a situation where the woman with the issue of blood is ritually unclean, and has, by law now made Jesus unclean (Leviticus 15:19). Instead of whirling in violent condemnation, instead of elaborating on how she has violated God’s laws, Jesus demonstrates compassion as she relates her struggle to him. He heals her body: “your faith has made you whole”, eases her mind: “go in peace”, and focuses on her victory: “be freed from your suffering”.
Jesus does this in direct contrast to the prevailing rules of the time. In Luke 6:6-11, Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath day, the traditional day of rest. He does this in contravention of the rules rigorously adhered to by the priests and teachers of law. The Bible records that they were furious at Jesus for healing the man after they had warned him about “working” on the Sabbath. They were so filled with their own sense of righteousness, that they were more concerned with maintaining the law than with restoring their fellow man to wholeness. A potential chance for a celebration of the power of God was obliterated by grumbling because it hadn’t happened when they thought it should.
John 8:1-11 is another demonstration of Jesus’ compassion for those that struggle in life. The woman had been fairly caught in adultery and by one of the most traditional laws (the seventh commandment) was in jeopardy of being stoned. Jesus’ first action was to address the condemning multitude, to remind them of their struggles, to emphasize that we are all open for ultimate judgement in the face of God. Once they had been dealt with and scurried off, he addresses her, and acknowledges her actions, but speaks of restoration as opposed to condemnation. The directive to “go your way and sin no more” acknowledges, addresses, and dismisses her sin, choosing to focus on repentance and growth. He does not force her to publicly confess her sin before the multitude, but privately forgives her and blesses her.
A similar theme is found when dealing with the woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Jesus knows the woman’s sin (verse 17), but before he addresses it, he first speaks to her about the Kingdom of God. He explains the Kingdom and its benefits so well that the woman wants nothing more than to be a part of it. Then he deals with her sin, and shows her how to be free of it. He does not avoid it, but addresses it clearly and directly (and also briefly). He speaks more than twice as much about the Kingdom of God and the power of God than of her sins. Her repentance was therefore not forced or coerced, but a true and genuine desire to have the relationship with God that Jesus promised. Such was the honor in Jesus’ walk, that his disciples were amazed that he spoke with her, but never questioned their conversation.
It is essential that we are compassionate to our fellow brothers and sisters, whether they are believers or not. As followers of Christ, we are compelled to act as He did, to show the love that He did, to be as approachable as He was. We need to make sure that when we see our brothers and sisters struggling we listen as much as He did and forgive as quickly as He did. The last part of the story in John 4 shows the benefits of this approach. The woman left her water pot and spread the word, bringing more people to hear and see Jesus. They sought after him so diligently that he stayed for two days. These people believed Jesus and his words, but they came and listened as a result of the woman who came to him in a struggle. Imagine how many people would not have heard the Word if Jesus had treated her the way we currently treat people who are fighting their demons. Imagine how many more people would hear the Word if we treat people the way Jesus did.
Heading to deep waters,
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Just a little birdy and fish about the Father's business. Helping to better the world one blog at a time.