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.
- 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?