People who are whole and healed don’t go around hurting other people. They are at peace within themselves and can thus act in peace towards other people. However people who are not at peace within themselves and have not learned to cope with negative situations or difficult people can cause hurt and pain to others.
It means that when some people are acting in a hurtful way towards us we don’t have to go into all sorts of self-recrimination or self-inquisition to try to ascertain what is our problem. As they rant and rave at us we can simply ask ourselves the question “What’s their problem?” This is not being self-righteous. It is being realistic if we are living as we should be by the grace of God.
In 1988 I was invited to a Leaders of Anglican Renewal Conference at Canterbury Cathedral and at the University of Kent. Leaders had been invited from many countries around the world. It was an emotional experience because many who had been at the previous conference some years before had since that time been martyred for their faith. Many of those at the 1988 conference were going back into very dangerous situations with possible martyrdom an ever present threat.
We were asked to think about what God might have highlighted for us during the conference. As I thought about that I knew that I was going from one diocese to another in just a few weeks’ time. Some folk had warned me that I was getting in as an “outsider” into this other diocese. Some warned me that I could face a difficult time.
As I sat there in the conference I began to think about what my responsibility might be as I went into this new situation. My thoughts went in this direction. As a Christian believer I had to be like Christ to other believers. That was my responsibility. On the other hand they as Christian believers should be like Christ to me. That was their responsibility.
So I didn’t have to see people who were not being kind to me as a threat. I could see them as people who needed healing because they were not fulfilling their responsibility of having a Christ-like attitude to me. They were not fully drawing on the grace of God to be different. To be and to act like Him.
How did it turn out? As I tried by the grace of God to be like Jesus to other people I found that many responded to me in a Christ-like way. On the other hand they were some people I met who were unfriendly to say the least. But because of my experience in the University of Kent I could look at them in a different light. I could recognise their weakness rather than being intimidated by what seemed to be initially a domineering strength. There were a couple of occasions when faced with such people I found myself thinking, “What IS your problem!” It soon became apparent that they were reacting out of weakness rather than strength. They needed healing.
I did learn an important truth along the way. One senior churchman who had a fear of anything charismatic thought he read some charismatic teaching in something I had written. He had misunderstood what I had expressed. But he lost control and for several minutes blasted me at the top of his voice. All I could do was listen and pray for him. Eventually he stormed off. I did recognise that it was his problem and not mine. That was confirmed within hours when he had a massive emotional breakdown and was out of ministry for several weeks. You can’t deliberately grieve the Holy Spirit of God by giving way to the flesh and remain unaffected! Praise God by His mercy He eventually restored our friendship and our mutual respect.
It means then that if YOU are the one with the problem then confess it, ask Him (and others where necessary) for forgiveness and pray for healing so that you don’t behave in an ungodly way again. That is your solemn and inescapable responsibility.
On the other hand don’t carry unnecessary guilt. If it is obvious by their behaviour and attitudes that THEY have a problem, recognise it and act like Jesus towards them. Pray that they will be healed. Don’t be intimidated by intimidating people for they are “timid” or “fearful” people who are afraid of people who for some reason threaten them. For as my first hint suggests, “You need to realise that it’s only hurting people who hurt others.”