It deeply, deeply saddens me when I hear of yet another ministry couple who have been wounded and hurt by other Christians, often who are themselves in leadership. I find myself asking ‘Why does this have to be?’
Most people who have been in leadership for a reasonable length of time have found that on various different occasions, to varying degrees, they have been let down, hurt, even betrayed, by those they trusted so deeply. Whether it is because of deliberate sin or whether it’s just that the enemy has found a foothold somewhere and managed to break down a relationship.- whatever the cause, it can make life incredibly hard.
Unfortunately, no one is perfect (ourselves included) and the devil is out there trying desperately to tear down whatever the Lord is building up. Conflict is inevitable!!
The principles that Jesus lays down in Matt 18:15-17 are a great starting point for moving forward in such situations. They centre around going straight to the person with whom you have an issue, and one-on-one speaking directly to them. This is generally a hugely counter-cultural thing to do, yet is so powerful in preventing the sickness of broken relationships infecting the wider body of Christ.
Not taking others’ comments too personally is also important – sometimes we just need to grow a thicker skin! Being open and honest in a loving and humble way, having someone to whom we are accountable, as well as having a sense of humour, can also go a long way to prevent relationship breakdown.
Of course, sometimes there is a huge rift and the pain goes really deep. Our first reaction may well be to retreat to a safe place. Alone time with the Lord is good where we can pour out our hearts to Him and to seek refuge in His arms (some of the Psalms can be great to meditate on).
Sometimes it’s helpful to go to mature Christians who can act as a sounding board and give you a wise, objective point of view. Getting prayer support is key to bring encouragement to you and to stop the enemy from making the situation worse.
Succumbing to bitterness and resentment could be so easy. However, doing so will actually imprison you rather than anyone else. Of course the narrow, difficult path is the path to freedom. Choosing to bless those who curse you and offering forgiveness is a daily act of discipline.
I know that I have tendencies to ‘get on my high horse’ and assume that they are the ones mostly in the wrong! However, I presume that Jesus would prefer me to withhold my judgement and instead to seek reconciliation and extend grace. Reconciliation does not mean that from now on you will be best buddies with that person, but it does mean that if and when you come across them you can look them in the eye and genuinely ask after them. Remember Ephesians 6.12: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Jesus knows exactly what it’s like to be let down and betrayed. For how long did He know that Judas would betray Him? Even so, Jesus still poured His life into him up to that point of no return, and presumably included Judas in His mind when He prayed from the cross for forgiveness for those who had put Him there.
Regardless of others’ behaviour, we are answerable to God for ourselves. No matter what darts have been thrown at us, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and not be distracted by the good and bad around us. We will continue to face both the joy and the heartache that relationships bring until we reach heaven. Let’s choose to keep our hearts malleable and pure, as we seek to walk blamelessly before the Lord.