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by Susan Wilson
So, there were a lot of good, bad, and ugly things we have looked at here in these last few posts. One thing we need to bear in mind is this… when we call out darkness, the good news is that we have brought it to the Light. The Light has a name, Jesus. 1John 1:5 Amplified “This is the message [of God’s promised revelation] which we have heard from Him and now announce to you, that God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection].” We are called to walk in that Light. (Isaiah 2:5) And when light has shown on us we have a responsibility to act on what we have been made aware of. I am so glad that Jesus made a way for all sin to be dealt with. Yes, even the sin of how we deal with those who have hurt us (unforgiveness & bitterness).
Jesus brought us a way to be free from all the snares of the enemy. There will never be anything stronger than the fact that Jesus paid for the sin of the world. His blood atonement paid it all for the rest of eternity. Any time I lose sight of this truth and it’s amazing ramifications on every area of existence, I get off focus. We live in an age where just maintaining our focus is a battle. I was easily distracted long before that had a name. (Squirrel!) But I am thankful to have a magnetic pull towards Christ. When things go wrong He is where I flee to. When life goes well, He is where I run rejoicing. My testimony is full of stories of His love and power to transform. I have seen relationships restored. I have seen lives redeemed. I have had the privilege of seeing His faithfulness for decades now and it is truly a feast for my soul. Keeping my eyes on what Christ has done for me I am better positioned to rightly handle when I am hurt by others. I cannot give what I have not received. I have received forgiveness. I have been cleansed from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is a good feeling! Which leads me to my next point. Gratitude is paramount.
I have heard it said by a dear friend and mother in the Lord that oftentimes our breakthrough is just on the other side of our worship. My dear friend, we cannot worship when we are not grateful. The attitude of gratitude must prevail. Always. It is where our hope resides.
Bitterness and unforgiveness are at war with our souls. I am thankful that God provided a way out. I didn’t say it was easy, but it is definitely life giving. It is an act of a surrendered will out of obedience to Christ. We must lay aside every weight that so easily besets us. Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Don’t lose heart my friend. You were the joy that was set before Jesus so that He could endure the cross and the shame. You. Me. Wow. That deep abiding joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is what is paired with His strong grace so that you can choose to do the hard thing that truth demands. And oftentimes the hard thing is just the right thing that was not done in the right time. I am thankful that we get another chance. His mercy is new today. Take Him up on it. Allow His grace to flow through you and the joy will come in the morning.
Oh, and one more thing. Don’t do this alone. We are called to community and connection. It is how you were designed. God has a family for you. And if you don’t feel like you have much of one in the natural, He will place you in one in the Church. Faith was meant to be walked out together. Walk with other believers. Find trusted Mothers and Fathers in the Lord. Then, walk with them. Sit at their feet. Serve them and learn from them. Soak up the wisdom from years of walking with God. You will reap so many benefits. You will learn how to weather storms. Then, find others you can walk alongside. Just like my dear friend Donna. She has walked with me through life. She has cried with me and prayed with me and spoken the voice of the Father to me many times.
And last but not least, find those you can pour into. Once you are free of bitterness and fresh water flows from you, raise up others and come up under them as they learn just how amazing the Father truly is.
You can trust Him. I promise.
p.s. if you’d like to read the previous posts in this series, you can find them here:
The “B” Word—Not What You Think: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/the-b-word-not…/
Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/
Bitter Truth: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/07/bitter-truth/
“Bitterness leads nowhere. It turns back on itself. It is the eternal cul-de-sac.”
Bitterness is insidious. It slinks in on the coattails of our anger and pain. When not identified and exterminated, it slowly morphs into a monster who whispers to our spirit, “But they must pay!”
And if we give it an ear, the caustic beast takes over everything. We aren’t carrying it in a cute little emotional backpack. Nope, it digs in its talons and clings to our backs, forcing us into a slow crawl.
But we can’t go through life carrying that type of burden. It sucks the life out of everything we do, say, think, and feel. The bitter truth about bitterness is this—it causes us to become someone we aren’t meant to be and less of the person we are meant to be.
And if we let bitterness stick around long enough? We inadvertently put it on a pedestal. And even without realizing it, our desire to make someone pay becomes a higher priority than forgiving them in the same manner we have been forgiven by Christ…and then bitterness can become an idol. And that idol keeps our eyes off of the forgiveness we have been freely given and places it squarely on our desire to see someone else hurt in the same way we have been hurt.
Maybe you know you have taken a bite of the bitter fruit…and maybe you know it’s taken root. But sometimes we don’t even know that we’re harboring bitterness. And many times the person who hurt us doesn’t know that we are harboring bitterness toward them. But those who live with us will usually know. Those who are the closest to us are sometimes the ones who are able to identify it more readily. They see us at our best and our worst…and they can see changes in us even when we can’t—or don’t want to.
And while we might be able to hide the bitterness at work or with those who aren’t part of our inner circle…our bitterness won’t stay hidden forever.
The bitterness can infiltrate our speech. It can reveal itself as part of our social posts. It can become part of the way we respond to everyone who “crosses us”. We are more apt to see other people as lost causes…to give up on relationships…and to view them without grace. It becomes a spiritual blind spot.
So what are some signs that we might be living in a palace of bitterness? It is different for each person, but here are a few symptoms we might experience:
1. When someone brings up name of the person who hurt us, bitterness trains our brain to explain/describe how wrong the other person was and still is. It doesn’t take much to set us on that trail…and there is not usually any redemptive aspects to our conversation about that person.
2. As Susan mentioned, there’s also the issue of “rehearsing”. Yup, when we think about seeing the offending party, we rehearse what we’ll say to them…over and over and over. Even if it’s just imaginary, it becomes something we ponder more often than not.
3. We dwell on the things that could have been done differently (sometimes obsessively), while simultaneously blaming the one who caused the offense for everything that’s going wrong in our life.
4. We don’t like to be around “cheerful” or positive people. It’s as if their sunny disposition disrupts the bitter flow we’ve got going on. Their joy irritates our bitterness.
5. There is a distinct lack of grace for others, and mistakes are rarely our fault. We have a hard time apologizing.
6. We start being judgmental of others, not just the one who hurt us.
7. We justify our growing animosity with the remembrance of the sins of those who hurt us.
Bitterness is a heart issue; so what do we do about it? How can we respond to others in the same way that Christ has responded to us? What if that person continues to be a jerk? Or what if they never apologize? Or what if they don’t think they are wrong? What is there to chew on that can help us let go of the bitterness?
Forgiveness: it’s what’s for dinner…and many times, the appetizers and dessert. Why? Because unlike revenge (and pineapple), forgiveness is best served any time and all the time. Corny, yes…but nevertheless, it’s true.
The Bible doesn’t say that you have to like someone to forgive them. But it does say that you must LOVE them. And true love moves and breathes in the Spirit…not seeking revenge.
In 2nd Timothy 2:24 we are told that those who serve God “…must not be quarrelsome (argumentative) but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful…”. And in Matthew Jesus says, ““But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
It’s not enough to say that we forgive, we are instructed to DO something to show it. We are called to put our forgiveness into action. Then it gets even harder, y’all. In Romans 12, Paul instructs us to treat our “enemies” to lunch. Whaaaa?
Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
That’s a tall order, y’all, and I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Are y’all?
When I read the above passage, it reminds me that I’m a victor, rather than a victim of circumstances or someone else’s choices.
Jesus said that “no one takes my life from me…I lay it down…and pick it up again.” That’s what we are being called to do, as well. But in order to do that, we have to take off the bitter monster who is weighing us down and holding us captive…and put on the yoke of Jesus instead. He said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Come to me.I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[ Simply join your life with mine.[c] Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,[d] humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.[e] For all that I require of you will be pleasant[f] and easy to bear.”
Because when we hold on the bitterness and imprison the bitterness against others in our spirit, they are not the ones in bondage—it’s always us.
*If this is not the correct attribute, please let me know. But my research has led me to believe that the quote is from the cited source.
p.s. Join us for the other posts in this series. You can find them here! If you’d like to read them, here are the links:
The “B” Word—Not What You Think: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/the-b-word-not…/
Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/
From Bitter to Better: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/from-bitter-to-better/
by Susan Wilson
Bitterness is uglier than we think. Much like that lovely fruit, the pineapple. It looks rather exotic on the outside. It even has a tough exterior and is rather pointed but we do love to dance with the dangerous. I recently ate my fill of that delicious fruit. Right up until I felt my mouth tingle and all of a sudden felt as if I had burnt my tongue on something really hot. Just like when we burn our tongue on a cup of hot liquid, I could not taste anything else. It even hurt my gums when I brushed my teeth for a few days. That fruit basically bites you back. It has an acid that eats away at you while you eat it.
So, why is this stuff even on the shelf without a warning sign? For people like me, who apparently don’t learn these things until later in life. Sometimes we all miss the “obvious”. Back to the other “forbidden fruit” we are warned against. Much like unforgiveness, bitterness is a trap for us, not those we are angry with. The ways it bites us back are numerous. Bitterness becomes the lens that we view all of life through. It colors and corrupts our view. It tethers us to that person’s sin against us. Until we let go of anger and hatred, the person is still hurting us. We let go for our sakes.
I stopped eating that pineapple when I connected the dots. The Bible instructs us to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us (2 Cor 2:10,11) because he intends to use this to destroy us. We are to forgive just as we have been forgiven. I get into trouble when I get too far away from the understanding of all I have been forgiven of. The sad truth is that we will live with the consequences of another’s sin whether we like it or not. Our decision is merely how we choose to do so. Will we do it in bondage or in the freedom of forgiveness. Bitterness is the fruit of full grown unforgiveness and it is bondage. Acts 8:23 says it is “the gall of bitterness and in a bond forged by iniquity (to fetter souls).”
That verse in Acts references Isaiah 58:6 which speaks of what a true fast and an acceptable day to the Lord is. “…the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every enslaving yoke.” Why does God hate sin? Because it causes death. What is unforgiveness? Sin that we can repent of. That is where Hope resides.
I have found over the years that whenever I don’t forgive I tend to rehearse what was done to me over and over in my head. I will never forget when the Lord spoke to me about this. He used the following passage of scripture.
In Genesis 30:25-43, we read of the account of Jacob when he was ready to finally part ways with his uncle Laban. Now Laban had not treated Jacob very well and had deceived him while also benefiting greatly from the way the Lord had blessed Jacob. When it was time for them to part ways, Jacob had a plan. He would take only the speckled and black sheep and goats. Jacob took rods made of poplar and almond and plane trees and peeled white stripes in them exposing the white which was in the rods.
When the strongest of the animals would come to the watering troughs where they came to drink and mate, he put the rods in front of them. Thus their offspring turned out to be speckled. So instead of them being the weakest of the herds, they were actually the best of them.
The Lord told me, what you look at you will reproduce. What you focus on and dwell on is what you will become.
I cannot spend too much time rehearsing what another has done to me before I have to go back to that place that I am responsible for. I am responsible for my choices, my thoughts, my actions, my beliefs, and my responses; all of those will I be giving an account for. All of those things I am given both responsibility for and power over. That is where that feeling of powerlessness ends. That is where I am no longer a victim. I can choose not to be around certain people again. I can choose to set healthy boundaries moving forward. But as for justice, the only justice is found at the Cross. The cross is what makes forgiveness right and legal because Jesus took the eternal payment for all sin upon Himself (2 Cor 5:21).
I have been sinned against, but the difference is, He knew no sin and bore it all for me and for you. Hard Truth – We have to come to terms with the pain that sin causes. But we can choose not to become tethered to it and defined by it. Because before we know it, our identity gets wrapped up in it. I refuse to be defined by what has been done to me by others. I am defined by the One who laid His life down for me, the Creator of the universe. When we release and forgive it doesn’t mean that what happened was ok or that God has let go of them. He is just and fair and knows how to handle it much better than we do. I don’t have to feel like it to forgive. Once we do forgive Satan loses his power over us and the Lord steps in to heal that area of our soul. He has restored my soul on many occasions and continues to do so. The question remains do we trust Him?
If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, you can find them here:
The “B” word…Not What You Think: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/2021/05/03/the-b-word-not-what-you-think/
Bitter Truth: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/07/bitter-truth/
From Bitter to Betterhttps://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/from-bitter-to…/
Susan Wilson is a sweet, sweet friend and “adopted” sister to me. I’ve known her longer than I’ve known my husband! 😊 We met during the first week of orientation at Appalachian State University in 1991. As the years have gone by, we’ve had many deep discussions about marriage, motherhood, and mountains (physical, spiritual, and emotional ones). It’s been a joy to be her friend for so long and to walk out our individual journeys together.
Recently, I asked her to collaborate with me on a blog post about a mountain that all of us, at some time in our lives, need to throw into the sea. It’s name?
We have all been on the receiving or giving end of bitterness at some point in our lives—and it is not a pleasant experience on either side. So what do we do about it? We can’t navigate someone else’s journey, but we can certainly take responsibility for our own. The next couple of blog posts will be a combination of thoughts, research, and prayer on the subject from Susan and me. As you read, I ask that you consider if there are any places in your life that are covered in the vines and weeds of bitterness and unforgiveness…then ask God how to deprive them of oxygen and rip them out by roots.
Here’s something to chew on today as we finish preparing for the next couple of posts…
Bitterness, which springs from unforgiveness, affects us spiritually…but it affects us physically, as well. And yes, doctors agree. This quote from Hopkinsmedicine.org shows us one perspective:
“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” (Karen Swartz, M.D., John Hopkins Medical Center, and https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)
And from Piedmont Healthcare:
“Living in a chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increasing inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol in the body,” she explains. “Forgiveness engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your immune system function more efficiently and makes room for feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.” The writers warn, “If you are tempted to dwell on an offense, remind yourself what you are doing to your body when you run the scenario in your mind again. Your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined,” says Buttimer. “When you replay in your mind an experience you had six months ago, your body reacts as if you’re having the same experience over and over again.” (You can find the entire article here: https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/what-does-holding-a-grudge-do-to-your-health)
We hope you’ll join us over the next few days as we explore what happens when we choose bitterness over forgiveness…and how that looks in our lives. You can find the other posts in the series through the links below:
Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/ by Susan Wilson
Bitter Truth: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/07/bitter-truth/ by Donna (me)
From Bitter to Better https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/from-bitter-to…/ by Susan Wilson
Repentance…we are all called to it. But it’s one of the hardest things to do. To repent means we have to admit what we have done wrong. And sadly, in the Christian church, there have been many wrongs that we don’t want to admit or see.
Recently, I’ve been reading the Roys Report, but it’s not easy reading. The Roys Report is investigative journalism (by Christian journalists) into the inner circles of well-known Christian businesses, as well as congregations and leaders, such as the recent Hillsong scandals, the alleged (and seemingly confirmed) misconduct of Ravi Zacharias, and the bully-ish behavior of leaders in some other mega-church congregations across the nation. I usually do my own extra research to make sure that the information I’m reading isn’t biased. Like I said, it’s not easy reading, but it is eye-opening and backs up what I’ve seen on a more local level.
In the past few years, one of my daughters experienced what it means to be in a church-based environment that seeks to protect the reputation of their leadership over protecting the spiritual welfare of their flock. And while I do not believe that mega-churches are inherently wrong, I do believe that getting to that point means that sometimes the leadership can put themselves in a position that is not healthy for the them or their congregation. People start turning a blind eye to the small things…even when something doesn’t feel “quite right”. That leads to spiritual blindness from both the congregation and the leadership. So unless the leadership constantly checks itself, a humble spirit can easily be replaced with ego and the idea that they are the only ones who have the answers. The leaders can then become more celebrity than servant.
Those in leadership are in a unique position that can easily shake hands with corruption and pride, if not kept in check. And if the leaders of churches or Christian based organizations lose their humility and repentant spirit…what then?
The church is supposed to be a safe-haven…a place for people to come and be healed; unfortunately, it has often become a place where people are harmed or feel like they have to leave their congregations to get healed. This is not new, but it is growing in frequency. People are afraid to speak up because they are worried about losing the family they have found in that congregation. Will there be repentance from the leaders and reconciliation? Or will the leaders simply cover up the problem at the expense of the members who have finally found the courage to speak up and speak out?
We, as Christians, must be willing to address the sin of spiritual abuse of authority in the church, just as much as we should address any instances of physical and sexual abuse. And as the church, we must be careful NOT to place pastors, worship leaders, or “popular” Christian business leaders on pedestals. Christ is the only one we should worship, not those who happen to be standing on the stage or writing the checks.
In the case I referenced earlier — I advised my daughter to go the senior pastors of her church and tell them about her concerns and the hurt she had experienced. I believed that the leadership would listen and model behavior that would help bring healing. Unfortunately, I was wrong. And this behavior was as harmful, if not more so, than the original issue with the other staff. She was not the only one who felt that there had been spiritual abuse in the discipleship ministry program she had been part — but I think she may have been one of the few to speak up. There are many fine people in that congregation who would be appalled and hurt to know what has happened. And there would be many who wouldn’t believe it. We don’t always want to see what is clearly in front of us.
If there is a lack of biblical leadership and love and/or signs of abuse of spiritual authority happening in your congregation, then there needs to be repentance and a reformation or change in leadership. We cannot, as the church of Christ, willfully place people in leadership positions who have charisma and “look the part” without first making sure that they have a heart for Jesus and his heart for others.
We are all called to be servant leaders, but the emphasis has to be on the SERVING part. Jesus washed people’s feet…and he laid down his life for us. Do we do the same? Or do we pull the rug out from others, causing them to stumble and fall? And when this is becoming more and more prominent in our leaders, there is a deep rooted problem in our church “culture”.
We have to lead by serving, not by insisting on having our own way. Otherwise, we will not be helping to heal the broken…we will be making a mockery of the Gospel and what Christ has called us to do. We must be willing to admit our failings and ask for God to heal those broken places.
As stated earlier, this definitely applies to all of us. I am not dressing down the church — I am part of the church body. But it doesn’t just apply to Christian congregations. If you claim to be a Christian based business, and your employees are leaving more hurt than they came in, how is that building the Kingdom of God? How is that any different than the way the world chews up employees and spits them out?
The church has to do better. The world is a messed up place…and from the looks of recent reports, it seems that the church has been part of the problem.
Jesus didn’t say that the world would know us by our fabulous worship songs.
He didn’t say that the world would know us by our books or blog posts.
And he didn’t say the world would know us by the charismatic sermons that we deliver.
He said that the world will know we are His disciples by our LOVE.
So how do we cast off the image we’ve created for ourselves and instead, remember that we are dressed in HIS righteousness alone? How do we get out of the way and get back to focusing on Jesus? How do we get back to the place of LOVE?
Repentance— it’s the u-turn God provides. It’s what we all need to get back to our calling in Christ.
Acts 17:30 – “God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better – but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change.
I John 1:8-9
Proverbs 28:13 You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.
2 Timothy 2
You can find the Roys Report for free online.
The most recent investigation is here: https://julieroys.com/ramseys-best-place-to-work-say-no-and-out/
What do we do now? That’s the question my mind.
I read recently that those who claim to be Christians need to remember who we serve…and act like it. We are called to be Christ-like. We are called to serve. We are called to love. We are called to consider others with more importance than ourselves. (Phil 2:3)
We are called to use our freedom for good.
“For you, my brothers, were called to freedom; only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the sinful nature (worldliness, selfishness), but through love serve and seek the best for one another.” Galatians 5:13
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
If you visit the White House website, you’ll find this explanation of the First Amendment:
The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/the-constitution/
This brings me to the reason for my question…the riot at the Capitol.
The insurrection was carried out by many people from across the nation. But it was not a peaceful protest…it was a violent attack on our nation’s capitol.
It was an attack on freedom.
A portion of people who claimed to be “patriots” chose to try to destroy the very place that makes the laws that uphold their right to speak and peacefully protest. They stormed the capitol and turned “we the people” into “we the mob”. Many are being arrested and charged with federal crimes…and rightfully so.
This attack was not someone writing letters of disagreement to their congressman or airing their grievances from a podium at a community meeting. Instead, the crowd brought pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. Some even came dressed in full tactical gear and with other props that could be used to hold people hostage.
This was not a group of people taking an intentional peaceful knee (as afforded them the right to do in the first amendment). No…this was an angry mob taking the capitol by intentional and violent force.
And they came prepared for violence.
This act of domestic terrorism led to five deaths, including the death of an officer who was trying to stop it.
The Lord is not surprised by the events of last week.
Or the events of today.
He is not surprised by any of our selfish, sinful deeds.
And thus, I am again humbled by the fact that “God so loved the world…” and the fact that Jesus willingly laid down His life and picked it up again…for our eternal freedom.
So what do we do now?
We repent…while we still have the physical and spiritual freedom to do so.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.2 Chronicles 7:14
“Bless you!” That’s what my husband said when I sneezed and coughed at the same time tonight.
A sneeze + a simultaneous cough = a snough.
If you pronounce “snough” as if it rhymes with “cough”, that’s how I pronounced it. It’s a made-up word, right? So why would anyone pronounce it any other way than how I mean for it to be pronounced?
Well, if you only look at the “ough” part of the word and have no context, “snough” can also rhyme with other “ough” words: through, though, and tough. (There’s also the strange word, hiccough, pronounced “hiccup”!)
The English language is weird…and context is everything.
Unfortunately, we don’t always look for context before we repeat something we’ve read, heard, or seen–and the topic is usually far more important than a made up word like “snough”. And even if there is context? It might be misleading, so we interpret it the best way we can…but still end up being wrong.
Too often we read something in the news, hear a snippet, or grab on to a headline that we have no (or little) context for…and start repeating it as the absolute truth.
We forward memes that we haven’t fact checked. We share videos or articles that only show part of the originally posted material. We promote inflammatory information, just for the sake of stirring the pot, whether we know it’s true or not.
This is one of the reasons why I have chosen not to share much political stuff on social media. No matter what I share, it can be taken out of context and shared in a way it wasn’t mean to be shared.
If I post an article on a certain policy or politician, some folks might assume that means that I agree with the policy or politician. On the other hand, others might think I disagree with the policy or politician – and start arguments. Without proper context, the reader will probably make the wrong assumption.
I have always been very opinionated; I still am. Matter of fact, I am probably more opinionated than I used to be. However, I’m also learning that if whatever I choose to share isn’t shared in the context of love, then what good does it do?
I don’t care how fabulous my message might be…or how noble my goal. If I don’t share it in love, it’s worthless.
If the context of my message is not soaked in love, why am I even putting it out into the world?
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. — I Corinthians 13: 1-3
Soaking something in love doesn’t mean you don’t share the hard things. But even the hardest of things can be received better when they are given in the right context. Medicine goes down much easier with a spoonful of sugar, right? So are words that are seasoned within the context of love.
So when I write things for social media (including this post), I better check the context.
And if it’s not soaked in LOVE (rhymes with dove (the bird), but not dove, past tense of dive), then I better think twice about posting.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.– Ephesians 4:15-16
My teens and I were discussing how we, as Christians, should not “bear false witness against our neighbors“. We’ve probably all messed up in that way…I know that I have. It is especially easy to do in today’s political climate and social media crazed lives. So — who is our neighbor?
That question has been asked before. When Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself”, someone responded by asking, “Who is our neighbor?”
In response, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. This was a HUGE deal because of the bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans. (If you don’t know the story or history, here’s a good place to start: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV)
Note, Jesus doesn’t say you have to like your neighbor, but he did command us to love them. And if we use the Samaritan story, then to “love someone as yourself” means that we are to show kindness, even if there is a deep chasm. We are to help heal the wounds that have been caused by other people. And one of the biggest things? Sometimes we have to be willing to put our own time and money on the line.
Let me be honest – that whole parable is hard for me and most people that I know. Yes, I believe we are supposed to live our lives by that command and the example of the Samaritan. But imagine if the person by the side of the road had been someone who had hurt the Samaritan’s child? Or ruined his reputation by lying? Or done any manner of ill will toward the Samaritan and the people he loved. If I put myself in his place, would I be as willing to “love my neighbor” with the same intention and obedience as the Samaritan did?
Back to the commandment about “bearing false witness” (i.e. lying). It doesn’t say, “Only tell the truth about the neighbors you like” or “the ones you have helped you.” It doesn’t say to “steer clear of bearing false witness…unless they deserve it.” Nope, it is clear that we are not to tell lies about any of our neighbors, whether we like them or not. This includes all politicians (even the ones you might despise) and really rich people who get their names thrown into conspiracy theories on a daily basis.
An essay on this very subject hit me hard (listed below). I don’t like to be told to repent… I don’t know anyone who does. That doesn’t negate the fact that I need to do it. Please note that the article I’ve listed is from several years ago, and though you might not agree with his political leaning, he doesn’t use it at as a crutch. If anything, he’s calling out everyone in his party. He references older memes, but the point is still the same. If you’d like to read it, here is the link: https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/may/christians-repent-conspiracy-theory-fake-news.html
Here are some words from the article to consider: “When we bear false witness, we establish a reputation for blindly succumbing to unverifiable or groundless stories. How can we effectively witness when we have negligently borne false witness? How can we then claim to be the body of truth itself? When we spread conspiracy theories and fake news, we discredit ourselves, and we allow the gospel to be discredited as well.” (Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today)
Shelter in place. It’s what we’ve been told to do. And for the most part, it’s been going okay.
But last night, I got aggravated because my teens and hubby were hogging the remote. And yeah… I complained a bit. I don’t usually care, but for whatever reason, it bothered me. It was just one of those “moments”.
We all have moments like that – and sometimes those moments can feel much bigger than they usually would, especially during this weird time we are all going through.
Then this morning, I remembered that Sean had smashed a house centipede crawling toward my side of the bed yesterday morning that I’m certain had targeted me for extermination.
And today, he set up my new hammock while I ran an essential errand. I had tried and tried to hang the hammock yesterday afternoon, but couldn’t seem to make it work right. Sean got it set up in a matter of minutes.
Let’s be real — If I wasn’t already smitten with him, I would be now.
The girls have been getting along (mostly) and finding that being “still” isn’t a bad thing. They are working through the grief of missing out on things they’ve been looking forward to for years – and doing their best to find the joy in the every day things. (Some days are better than others!) Zoe and Casey continue to have Bible Study with their youth group via online meetings and also online game days. And many days are spent in their hammocks…just hanging out together. That makes this mama’s heart happy!
I’m thankful for Zoom, FB messenger, text, and for the ability to watch Acorn TV and Britbox 🙂 I am thankful for telephones that allow me to talk to my loved ones every day – several times a day!
And I am super, super, SUPER thankful that we are together and safe with a roof over out heads, food in the pantry, and that all of us are healthy.
There are days that none of us are easy to live with and get aggravated about the small things– but we get past them. They aren’t worth lingering on because we have been given another day — another opportunity, to do life together.
God is good – all the time. And in moments like these, He shows us love in big and small ways…through the arms and hands of the folks around us. And that is what I want to remember, long after our “shelter in place” orders are lifted.