Sweet Christian, You Do Not Have to Embrace Everyone

I had to be up early this morning to make an appointment, and was able to listen to my favorite pastors’ and their teachings while driving into the heart of our city during rush hour traffic.  It’s been almost 2 years since I did this every day while working, and hearing their voices was like being embraced by old friends.  Hearing God’s truths, the encouragement from Scripture,being reminded of the love God has for His children, and hearing practical ways to deal with tricky situations are things that I miss from these daily doses of Truth.

This morning, Chuck Swindoll spoke on 2 Timothy, a book where Paul is writing from prison and giving advice and admonishment to his understudy, Timothy.  Paul talks about Timothy’s childhood, his faith development, and Chuck pointed out an interesting passage that takes most Christians by surprise.

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.  (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

Paul is talking here about a man that he met on his spiritual and physical journey while doing God’s work that did him great harm.  We don’t know exactly what the harm was, but it is clear it is much more than mere physical violence as Paul endured so much of that from the hands of so many others that by this point, you can almost be sure that Paul is talking about a wound of the spirit, an emotional harm.

He warns Timothy about this man, possibly this man would seek Timothy out, either to verbally assail him or by quietly pretending to be a friend (as people often do) in order to get close to him.  For some reason, Paul decided it was very necessary to warn Timothy about this man.  Not only did Paul tell Timothy to watch out for him, he then goes on to tell him to “guard against him.”  It is very common that the man and women like this are involved somehow in spreading God’s word, a fellow Christian even that will engage in spiritual abuse in harming you.  Chuck talked extensively about men and women in the church who use their power and influence to manipulate, shame, or control their members to get them to comply out of condemnation.  For whatever reason, Paul is very adamant that Timothy should be wary of ever trusting this person.  This implies that the man would try to get close to Timothy -close enough to harm him, to allow him to enter his life… Paul loves Timothy, desires his ultimate good and spiritual growth, and does not want him to endure the pain and “great harm” that he endured at this man’s pursuit of him.

Guard against him.

I love that Paul doesn’t say something moderate like, “Well, he did me great harm, but you know… people are entitled to their own opinions and convictions, and we should all just accept him even though he attacked me ruthlessly.”

He doesn’t say, “Well, he did do me great harm, but you know, Timothy, if I had only been stronger, I would have responded better and could have made a relationship work with this kind of person.”

He doesn’t say, “Well, he is a fellow Christian, and even though he did do me great harm, we should keep him in the fellowship and try to view him as a good neighbor.”

No.  He doesn’t say any of that.  Paul does not excuse someone who does “great harm” to another, especially if that person claims to be a brother or sister in Christ.

It is extremely important to note people who are supposedly “in Christ” with you, who feel right and justified in doing others (or you) “great harm.”  We should allow ourselves to “be wary” of them.

If you are like me, you’ve failed at this in the past and because of being sweet or kind – thinking you were being a good Christian, and have allowed the malicious gossip, the envious shrew, or the backstabbing brother to stay in your life to your own detriment.

Sweet Christian, you do not have to just embrace everyone who comes to you disguised as a friend or brother or sister in Christ. There are many that watch you, haunt your footsteps, or purposefully seek you out for motivations other than building you up or encouraging you in your journey of growth.  It was clear that Paul must have been worried that Timothy would somehow come in contact with this man, otherwise the warning would not be included in the Bible.  Perhaps the man, knowing Paul was passing on the baton of spiritual advancement of the gospel, knew that Timothy would be next, and would be inclined to pursue Timothy to distract and spiritually attack him (like he did to Paul).

The Lord will repay him for his deeds

I love how Paul is so confident that it is out of his hands, that he does not have to worry at all if this man will ever get his due punishment for harming him spiritually or emotionally.  God takes care of it. He is the ultimate “avenger” talked about in Isaiah.  And He is a righteous judge who looks not on the outside, but on the inside to see the heart of a person.  He can tell the difference between someone with a pure or ugly diseased heart, and He will punish accordingly, and according to their deeds.  You don’t have to worry about them at all.

In another sermon I once heard Chuck do, he talked about this passage again, and claimed that the ONLY way to live your life after being harmed by someone like this is to try to live your life as if they don’t exist.  I was shocked to hear him say this, he is so wise and mature, I thought that Christians just had to “suck it up” and endure whatever abuse others felt like they were allowed to pour out on us.

No, sweet Christian, you don’t have allow someone to harm you.  God will take care of them, and you can go on living a beautiful life, carrying the torch in your sphere of influence without any fear or hindrance from the evil one who seeks to emotionally and spiritually destroy you.

Advice

1) Guard your heart and your treasure.  Guard against people like this.  They will try to shame or guilt you into accepting them – because you are a sweet Christian, they will undoubtedly try to take advantage of your good character.  Just like Satan, they will try to use your good-heartedness against you so that you allow them into your circle or life.  Guard your heart carefully, if you know someone is a malicious gossip, a two-faced Christian, do not embrace them regardless of how they may try to ruin your reputation for rejecting them.

2) Understand there will be hardship to endure.  Sometimes a person like this will go to a higher authority in order to try to force you to allow them to be in your life.  Disregarding your personal boundaries, they will try to find loop holes, or ways to further ruin your reputation to get revenge because of your wise decision not to engage with them.  Understand that when Satan brings someone like this into your life, there will be hardship in dealing with them, either emotionally or spiritually.

3) Endure it Patiently.  It will pass, be patient and eventually they will leave you alone.  People like this are never happy, are not fulfilling their God given tasks and duties, are bored or looking for strife and conflict, and eventually, they will fade away from your life like the grass.  You will look for them and won’t be able to find them someday, as God will snuff them out and cause them to be ineffective (because they pursue things He doesn’t want them to pursue).  Its merely a contention of keeping the big picture (a greater perspective) in mind, visualizing how you will respond to someone like this: with firm clear and honest boundaries.  You can tell them exactly what you think of them, what they have done wrong (to others or to you in the past), in order to help them understand why you are rejecting them.  Telling them clearly and firmly is a last ditch effort to help them stop continuing in a direction that is bad for them, for others, and for their future.

4) Stand firm in your journey.  Stand firm in setting boundaries with these kinds of two-faced people.  Do not allow them to trample on your soul or make a mess in the place that God’s given you to witness to others in.  There is hope in enduring these kinds of trials, it makes us stronger and more effective Christians.  We are more compassionate when we’ve faced suffering and harsh treatment, less likely to shame or try to punish others (glorifying ourselves in the process).  Use it to find the strength God’s given you.

5) Take the torch and pass it on.  There is still Truth to proclaim.  Keep doing God’s work, helping others who want to be helped.  Chuck talked about how we as Christians have become so soft.  At the first sign of dealing with someone evil or spiritually attacking us, we fold up and cower under them.

There is still truth to proclaim in your own unique sphere of influence.  You cannot allow one person to harm you so that you are rendered too emotional or ineffective in proclaiming God’s truths anymore.  We must be emotionally and spiritually stronger than that!  Have iron in our bones.  And stand firm.

“God wants us to be on our feet, engaged in the battle, standing firm and guarding against any kind of wolf in sheep’s clothing that would do us great harm in our spiritual tasks and journey.  Run hard, run well.  May we be found faithful and passionate in our service to Him.” Chuck Swindoll

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7 thoughts on “Sweet Christian, You Do Not Have to Embrace Everyone

  1. Great stuff, Dragonfly!

    Even though I try to be discerning with my use of commentaries, I like Calvin’s Commentary on 2 Timothy…in particular this passage:

    But lest any person, by falsely imitating the Apostle, should rashly utter similar imprecations, there are three things here that deserve notice. First, let us not avenge the injuries done to ourselves, lest self-love and a regard to our private advantage should move us violently, as frequently happens. Secondly, while we maintain the glory of God, let us not mingle with it our own passions, which always disturb good order. Thirdly, let us not pronounce sentence against every person without discrimination, but only against reprobates, who, by their impiety, give evidence that such is their true character; and thus our wishes will agree with God’s own judgment otherwise there is ground to fear that the same reply may be made to us that Christ made to the disciples who thundered indiscriminately against all who did not comply with their views

    Dragonfly, one of the things I can’t stand is fakery and lying on the Lord and His Word, especially when those “of the faith” (like Alexander the Coppersmith) do it.  This is why Paul took the position he did.  This man was accusing Paul of being a false teacher, bastardizing doctrine, and leading gentiles astray…imagine an Apostle doing such things.

    And Alexander had the clout to raise enough reasonable doubt to be woefully damaging to what Paul was trying to do.

    The slick thing about some very effective haters is that they don’t always attack you, they attack your convictions at the core…and no sincere person in the Lord wants to be accused of being a fraud.  This is why hasatan is considered the accuser of the brethren.  He wasn’t saying Paul was ugly and couldn’t get laid, he was saying that Paul was phony and whack and was twisting God’s Words. When people start looking at you sideways who formerly thought you were a blessing…it hurts.

    This might be a stretch, but it’s kinda like the subject of submission.  A woman who doesn’t want to submit tells more about how she feels about God, than about her husband.  The Coppersmith was playing with fire…adding to the Word, bearing false witness against Paul.  I’d rather you take a swing at me.

    There is still truth to proclaim in your own unique sphere of influence.  You cannot allow one person to harm you so that you are rendered too emotional or ineffective in proclaiming God’s truths anymore.  We must be emotionally and spiritually stronger than that!  Have iron in our bones.  And stand firm.

     

    Word, Dragonfly.

    Sometimes we have to kick folks to the curb and fade to black and let the Lord deal with them.  We have to resist having the last word or, as in my case, busting a dude in the mouth.  When my ex’s (thank you Lord) baby daddy threatened to kick my ass in church, I had a vision of me laying him out with a heel kick to the solar plexus.  The vision faded to black and so did he and she.

  2. Thank you Pedat! What a great additional commentary. For me (concerning this topic) it is not letting just anyone have their will in my life (over God’s will).

    I’ve seen (some very pushy) people who have in the past caused great harm to me, suddenly do a 180 towards me and desire to become friends and get close – be “neighbors.”

    When I’ve confronted them on their past actions and two-faced personality towards me and my reputation, they try to guilt trip that (as a Christian) we both should just reconcile (without them offering any apology or reconciliation for their past actions). It’s amazing I’ve seen people like this believe that they are still right and justified in their past actions (that were harmful), meanwhile expecting me to just be sweet and kind and accept their evil behavior.

  3. I know, right!

    That guilt tripping they do is so manipulative and grating. When you talk to them about fruits meet for repentance and that reconciliation is a process (if it happens at all) and they act like you ate the last couple of french fries off their plate.

    I tried to get a Restraining Order against the ex’s baby daddy, and do you know that sucker told the magistrate that he didn’t understand my hostility towards him as I was his “Christian brother”?

    “Your honor…where is the love? Can’t we all just get along? Sticks and stones…” and all of that.

    If you’re like me, Dragonfly, you have evolved to avoidance of mean people. It’s one thing for people to have issues of personal growth, coping, communication..etc..but to be in your face mean and manipulative…ick.

  4. There is still truth to proclaim in your own unique sphere of influence. You cannot allow one person to harm you so that you are rendered too emotional or ineffective in proclaiming God’s truths anymore. We must be emotionally and spiritually stronger than that! Have iron in our bones. And stand firm.

    I’ve watched you doing this – I am aware of at least a few attacks you’ve taken and have gracefully stood firm. It speaks well of you and your husband and the relationship you have. It is an unlikely woman who can do that on her own, you must have a treasure of a husband who encourages you and helps you to emotionally press on. It’s been good to see.

  5. He is beyond amazing. I do not deserve him at all (that sounds so self-deprecating but it’s so true – he’s way better than me). He teaches me a lot of things, like how to deal with people who are hard to deal with or extremely rude. Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

  6. That sounds so awful with your ex’s baby daddy… but so right in line with how people like that behave.

    “If you’re like me, Dragonfly, you have evolved to avoidance of mean people.”

    Yes. More and more I’m learning to.

  7. I love how Paul is so confident that it is out of his hands, that he does not have to worry at all if this man will ever get his due punishment for harming him spiritually or emotionally. God takes care of it. He is the ultimate “avenger” talked about in Isaiah. And He is a righteous judge who looks not on the outside, but on the inside to see the heart of a person. He can tell the difference between someone with a pure or ugly diseased heart, and He will punish accordingly, and according to their deeds. You don’t have to worry about them at all.

    […] God will take care of them, and you can go on living a beautiful life, carrying the torch in your sphere of influence without any fear or hindrance from the evil one who seeks to emotionally and spiritually destroy you.

    This is such a freeing concept, isn’t it? It works in all areas of life with anyone who wrongs us, too. We don’t have to worry about it, we just have to manage our own conduct and deal with our own sins. We don’t have to be a doormat for people with evil intentions to walk on, nor do we have to stoop to their level and seek revenge. I remember realizing that years ago with a very difficult family member and feeling very relieved by it.

    Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

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