I Have Learned That Being Spiritual Does Not Mean … (4)

I have learned that being spiritual does not mean I must allow a dysfunctional family or a mean-spirited person to beat me into a pulp.

Perhaps you learned this one a long time ago.  This took me awhile to work through.

Most of the people in churches I have been a part of have been good people.  For the most part, I have been loved and have been treated very well.  Yet, I remember some moments in my earliest years in ministry in which I was very surprised at the behavior of some church people.  At times, I was just baffled by the way a few people behaved. 

I had been a Christian for many years but now was in a very different role.  I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do.   I certainly wasn’t sure what to do with these few whose behavior seemed quite destructive.

Perhaps this sounds like a no-brainer.  Perhaps it is.  Yet the problem I ran into was in grasping exactly what loving these people meant.  Like many ministers, I interpreted love as always being a really nice guy.  No matter what, I was to be nice (whatever that meant).

Yet, being nice seemed insufficient when I began to deal with some very dysfunctional people and families.  I began to realize that there were many people who wrestled with a variety of addictions.  I also began to see that sin has a way of creating monsters (in terms of behavior).  I saw that there were people who could be very difficult if not impossible to deal with.    Finally, I learned that ministry and life in general were more than just being nice.

For example:

  • I recall being in a situation (many years ago) in which a person was spreading rumors about my intent for being at that church.  For awhile, his words raised questions in some peoples’ minds about my ministry.
  • I once knew a man who almost compulsively wrote hot checks.  He was in and out of jail quite regularly.  He lied so much I am not sure that he could distinguish the truth from a lie.  The first time I met him was when I visited him at the county jail.  He needed more than a nice minister.
  • There was once a situation at our church in which several of our Bible school teachers suspected that a child had been abused if not beaten.   As  I recall, this family had been at our church for only a very short time but all sorts of red flags began to go up regarding this situation.

I began to realize that my functioning as a minister was not about being nice and being passive.  Rather, the church needed for me to learn to love them.  Love was not just letting whatever happen.  Love was about being intentional.  I would have to learn what this love looked like.  I would have to learn what it meant to love.

What was especially challenging, however, was dealing with people who desired to control.  I’m sure you’ve met them.  There are people who do not merely have suggestions or opinions.  There are people who want you to do whatever they want or they will attempt to make life miserable for you.  Again, I learned that these people needed for me to love them instead of just being nice.

Sometimes love means saying "no."  Love can mean being firm.  Love can mean doing what you believe to be in the best interest of that person even if that person doesn’t appreciate what you are doing.  Love can mean confronting.  Love can mean speaking the truth in love.

Does this connect with you? 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “I Have Learned That Being Spiritual Does Not Mean … (4)

  1. Loving them sometimes means you have to put the WWF Smack Down on someone. That is exactly how a pastor I admire told it to me as I started ministering. He was right. I have had to love, cajole and weild the two edged sword of scripture and swing it with such surgical precision as to restore the person, not break the person. Tough stuff for sure.
    I have to always come back to the ultimate rule of love. Can I love them and let them continue doing what they are doing. If the answer is no, then I know what I need to do.  

  2. Jim – great thoughts as always.  This is one of the toughest areas I have to deal with in ministry.  And you’re right, being nice is always my first inclination.  Confrontation is never pleasant, and I dread it more than anything else, but I have always been glad I’ve done it rather than avoided it, when all is said and done.

  3. As so often is the case, your blog reads as if it was prepared just for me. Maybe your blog’s like one of the paintings that seems to be able to look at everybody all at once. Anyway, thanks!

  4. I remember taking the training wheels off my son’s bike this summer… he thought I was a mean dad.
    Now he rides his bike all over the neighborhood… he thinks I’m a cool dad.

  5. I work with the mentally handicapped and if there is anything that i have learned it is that I must have the word "no" in my vocabulary. If your niceness take over believe me you are in for a rude awakening. I think you are right on the mark Jim, in our ministries we must  do the same, we should not be easily swayed even by bullies, be firm, fair and consistent with everyone…

  6. Bryan,I would guess that you have many examples from working with the mentally handicapped regarding this.  I enjoy giving a "yes" to this or that person.  Yet, love may demand that we say "no" on occasion as well. 

  7. Thanks John.  I suspect that many ministers and others who work with people fall prey to thinking that "niceness" is the same as love.Thanks.

  8. I agree with everyone who said this post feels like it was written for them. This is definitely a challenge.

    I find the hard part comes in dealing with non-christians, because they put us in this category of perfection that no one can live up to, except Jesus. When we do something out of love, like saying, “No”, all of sudden we are rude, ungodly, a hypocrit, etc.

    Jesus is the ultimate example of love, and He wasn’t always the peaches and cream that people think. He could be pretty harsh at times, but it was LOVE.

  9. it is so go to hear that you are being taught by the Spirit about God’s love.  to give God’s love is really the best thing that any one can do and the best thing anyone can receive.  it is really what all humans need.