My husband and I have dealt with people who spread lies and were caught in them — even admitted them; sometimes by accident and sometimes by bold disregard of our feelings. They showed no culpability, even though they admitted saying hateful things and gossiping. Many times, we thought we had already dealt with it, only to find out they went back to their old habits. We know as Christians, we face persecution, but when it seems there is no end, it becomes daunting and disheartening. We try to make our response what we feel Jesus would do. We apologize for anything we may have done to make others angry. We give them the benefit of the doubt… But there is one way they and anyone can change, and that is to repent and surrender to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We pray they find a complete relationship with Christ who has the ability to transform. (More about that later.)
How do you respond when someone tells you that they are not willing to accommodate your needs (not wants) because they simply don’t want to; yet you see them accommodate others, without hesitation? How do you react when people gossip about you? What do you say when people don’t listen to anything you say because they’ve formed a bias against you based on lies? How do you treat them when this behavior is a constant pattern? How do you act when others say that you don’t owe them anything for a past kindness or gift, yet they continue to remind you of that ‘kindness’ or gift? You cannot stop others from lying or gossiping. You cannot make anyone forgive you for ‘perceived’ offenses. You cannot make anyone listen and understand. You cannot control what others say. You cannot keep people from maligning you. You cannot repay kindness that is held like a debt over your head… And I think of Jesus and his responses in all of these situations, and I try to emulate him. You go about your business, which is your Father’s business and you forgive, over and over… seventy times seven… but we are human and it isn’t easy.
Even though we’ve searched our hearts and the Bible, I continue to search for the solution. We don’t want to lash out in anger, we want to give a response that is godly and kind, whether they choose to respond in the same way or not. One thing my husband said to me, while we were discussing these situations, was “How do we respond?” We’ve tried several methods, confronting in person, writing letters, speaking on the phone, but nothing has worked in one particular case. The lack of culpability, the lying, the scheming, and hatefulness has become a way of life for them. They even justify their actions. We all face these situations in our lifetime, whether it is with coworkers, family members, so-called friendships, and sadly with people whom we attend church.
As I was writing, our dog, who is very territorial, went into one of his barking frenzies. A van had pulled up in our neighbors’ driveway and our blinds were closed. The dog thought (because he couldn’t see and relied only on what he heard – not reality) they were invading “his” territory. He was putting out a warning that they better not get any closer. They better not mess with his space or his treasures, which happens to be me, my husband, his toys, and his food. He was going to protect what is his and what he is comfortable with, even beyond reason! While he was barking at the phantom threat; I had an epiphany! These people who have been attacking us are protecting themselves and their perceived offenses. They don’t want to change their lifestyle, they don’t want anyone “in their business” because no matter how phantom the intrusion, they don’t want to feel uncomfortable by making changes. They are so jealous of our peace, that they’ve decided there must be something wrong with us! They constantly scheme, like our dog who sneaks dirty wash cloths out of the laundry to tear them up, then he hides in a corner… They hide any behavior they know is wrong by repeating their behavior more discreetly. When the phone rings they bark their greeting, because it wasn’t their idea to have communication at that time…
The question my husband proposed was, “How do we respond?” I started to think of Jesus and what we know of his lifetime. How did Jesus respond to hecklers? How did he react to people who were so blinded they didn’t recognize the truth standing before them? Jesus IS Truth! How did he speak to the Pharisees or those who were non-believers?
When we encounter those who don’t understand the truth or are too blind to see it, we can pray for them. We can also remember a time when we were too blind to see and wouldn’t listen to others in our lives. We remind ourselves that it is only by the grace of God that we are not in their shoes; attacking others, without peace, and unhappy. We can Thank God for the Holy Spirit in our lives and pray they also receive enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, and come to know God intimately, to know His overwhelming love, abundant peace, and joy. If we are given the opportunity to make a difference in their lives, it must be by example. It will only be through a ready response of true love. Does this mean we must constantly be subjected to people’s hateful attitudes? No. I believe sometimes we must stay away from those who attack. Sometimes it is only by staying away that no offense is taken. Jesus didn’t take offense. His intention was to do his Father’s will. His perception was perfect, therefore his response was perfect. I want that perception! Jesus also removed himself from the crowd at times, when they were pressing in and overwhelming him. Luke 5:16 What did he do when he was alone? He prayed. What a lesson for us all, when we are attacked, we should politely remove ourselves from the situation and pray.
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
My prayer: Father, I desire to Never be offended. I want to walk constantly in my Father’s will. I want to respond in the same way that Jesus did to the false accusations and the attacks which he encountered. Help the people who are attacking see your ways and have your peace. Thank you for loving me and for loving them. Help me to know how to answer them, when the time comes. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who is our teacher and guide, who will provide us with the correct words at the correct time. Thank you for a ready response.
“When God wants to show you what human nature is like separated from Him, He shows it to you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has ever given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He will only do this when His Spirit is at work in you), then you know that in reality there is no criminal half as bad as you yourself could be without His grace. God’s Spirit continually reveals to His children what human nature is like apart from His grace.” –Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest.