In the sermon on Sunday, I related the story of a Christian who made an obnoxious comment to me years ago. The point of the story was that we have our work cut out for us; that one unfeeling comment can so poison a person’s experience that it can leave a stain stands over literally hundreds of loving and supportive statements. Since then I have had several people mention that part of the sermon. Some have asked, “Did someone really say that?!” (The comment was that my daughter’s illness must be related to some sort of sin that God is punishing). Others have shared their own similar hurtful moments; which brings up the question, “Why do that do that?”
The simple answer to that question is that they lack maturity. The gift of Christ is that we are saved from our sins. The gift of the Holy Spirit is that grow to be mature Christians and through experiences, adversities, and challenges. Those who say attacking, hurtful things, particularly at the times when someone is vulnerable, lack maturity. They are still part of the body of Christ and part of the family of God. They are just without depth of understanding or maturity.
This is not intended to be a form of judgment; it is more of a reason for forgiveness and a call to putting this type of behavior in perspective. Frequently, some of the more immature and hurtful people are allowed to continue to be hostile, hurtful, and rude. Because we feel the goal of the church is to be “nice” to each other, there are times that some are enabled to be continuously hurtful. This is one of the reasons why many have become uninterested in the church as a source for their own spiritual growth. One nasty comment has the capability of undoing a lot of good relationships.
So how do we manage when someone is insensitive, hostile, or rude? It’s a tricky situation. On the one hand we need to not be hostile or retaliate in our response. This will not spontaneously spawn growth and is seldom as satisfying as we hope it will be. Also, it merely extends and deepens the problem. We have to do what we can to minimize the damage but also have to find ways to confront in love, redirect, and teach so that immaturity does not continue to lead to hurt.
God gave us each other. Some of us have off days and say things that later we realize were hurtful or wrong. Some among us leave in their wake a constant stream of hurt, injury, and resentment; they are still a part of the body of Christ. The challenge is to work to be the people of God who grow through our hurt and injuries, deepen our faith through trials, and become more mature so that we can joyfully be a part of Christ’s healing love as it flows forth.