I am realizing that it’s not only God’s blessing, but His mercy to allow us to be friends with one another, especially when we’re all so very different and tend to nudge each other’s wounds a little bit. I’ve been coming to understand, especially lately, that when someone rubs me the wrong way, it’s not necessarily because they are a terrible person, or that inwardly, they meant to wound me, or anything so foolish as that. But what’s happening is their behavior–even when it’s wrong, and especially when it’s unintended–is pricking at a raw wound on MY soul. They could be acting out of their own insecurities as well. However, the gut reaction that I have–the reason it stings so much–comes from a reaction to a prior experience or wrong judgment about myself that has caused a distorted perception. As the old saying goes, I am only responsible for my response, and that applies here, as well.
I was reading in John 8 this morning, and I noticed something I hadn’t fully understood before that has expanded this understanding. Jesus is teaching the Jews at the feast. This is during a long confrontation about Jesus’ identity and His authority. To paraphrase, Jesus begins this moment by offering the Jews freedom, “If you continue in my word…you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” Jesus gives this instruction because these Jews are described as “those who had believed in Him” (vs. 31). So these are not the Pharisees, but those who had just professed belief in Him after the previous conversation (vs.30).
But they become offended throughout the discussion as Jesus distinguishes himself as one who knows the Father, God, and implies that their father is not Abraham, but the devil because they do not know the Father. It grows and grows into an incredible drama as Jesus professes Himself to be God, and those who a moment prior had professed to believe Him are now about to kill Him!
I used to think that these were the Pharisees talking to him. But they’re not. They’re the Jews who, after the previous discussion, have decided to follow Jesus. Jesus is offering them a way to continue in following Him, but one comment flares their indignation, and of their lack of repentance incites them to try to stone Him instead.
Have you ever experienced that unexpected rush of anger? I know I have. A good friend (or not so good friend) brings a bit of truth to me (I’ll use a mild example):
“Elyse, your scones are delicious. Next time, you should try using a little more liquid! *smile* wouldn’t that be nice?”
or even just a piece of direction, maybe even totally unrelated to my talents or abilities, but I judge myself as a lesser person by it,
“Ok, so in this song, I only want the violin to play this little minor rhythm for two bars of the chorus for the entire song, and that’s it,”
Or maybe they’re not gentle at all:
“Elyse, these scones are as dry as a dust clod!
And whether they bring the truth (or misunderstood half-truth–or even an outright lie), in a gentle or harsh way, it pricks something in the soul that causes me to wince. “I know your heart was in the right place, but…” These are hard words to swallow sometimes, even when they’re offering freedom. Ultimately, I’m reacting to a soul wound, and not even to their good-natured suggestion.
I think that this is what happened to the Jews in this passage, “What?! Me? A slave to sin? Yeah, I stumble here and there, but I wouldn’t call myself a ‘slave!’ That’s a little harsh don’t you think?”
I love the note that my Bible puts under their offended reply of, “‘We have never yet been enslaved to anyone:’ An amazing disregard to their Roman overlords” (emphasis mine).
Wow. Even I had forgotten for a moment that the Jews were under a kind of slavery to the Romans. But their oppression was obvious! Everyone was seeking freedom from their oppression, but they didn’t want to receive the kind of freedom Jesus was offering. Their limited freedom–the ability to maintain their religious system and to operate under the Law of Moses–had blinded them from the true freedom they could have had.
I’ve had this experience so many times: I know I’m in bondage to sin, and/or it’s obvious to everyone else, but when the Holy Spirit comes to bring conviction, either sovereignly, or through another person–POW! It’s like an explosion of denial goes off in my heart. When Jesus offers true freedom, I can be so offended by His method that I deny I’m even enslaved.
However, if I realize that I’m reacting to a wound, I am much quicker to respond with repentance, even when I’ve been wronged. Because I’ve been ultimately freed by accepting Him, this is a much easier process now, but there are still moments when I react to conviction or instruction, not realizing that there’s a wound there that is keeping me in my sin.
But then, when I cooperate with the healing of the Lord, He presents truth to replace the lie that held me captive and defensive–the opinion that God has over me, even when the devil says I’m worthless; the truth that my life will be so much more free if I let go of that thing I’m clinging to, whether it be depression, shame, an addiction, etc; the truth that I’m a child of God, and nothing can separate me from His love; the truth that I don’t need to react in hurt or anger because God sees the situation and cares much more about me than I do, and He will justify me if I trust Him. His judgment–His word–is pronounced over me, “You are My child. You are justified in My sight. I love you and no other opinion matters.”
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free… Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-32, 34-36, emphasis mine)