How do you react to grumbling and criticisms? Do you react in the same negative spirit? Do you feel the need for revenge and payback? I personally think it is a test of character when others slander and are judgmental of us. Character is not only how we act but how we react to people who hurt us – especially those we call brothers and sisters in Christ.
I have been in situations in my life and ministry when I literally felt my heart descend into a dark and bitter place because of how others treated me. But The Lord has taught me and has given me tools to keep me from bitterness. I tweeted about this sometime ago:
“I will not sin against God by ceasing to pray for you." 1 Sam. 12:23. Give me thick skin and a soft heart toward mean spirited church folk—
Walter Bright (@WaltBright) May 09, 2014
So what’s up with this verse? How can this verse help deal with the hurt and pain that come from the people we love and gladly serve. In this post I share two simple ideas to help keep us from a place of bitterness. Samuel said,
“As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way.
We’re called to two things in this verse:
- Commit to pray for those who hurt us
- Commit to teach those who hurt us
The hardest thing to do is to pray for people who don’t like you, could care less about you and are mean-spirited toward you. It’s even more difficult to preach or teach to these same people without being bitter toward them in your sermons. Our calling is to pray for the people of God, and not punish them for their sins toward us. We easily fall into sin when we fail to do the first thing – commit to prayer. You will never fulfill the second part of this calling if you fail to obey the first. A lot of pastors use their preaching as pay back to mean-spirited church folk. I have done that before and it is wrong.
The point here is not to teach them in a sermon, but to live out the gospel’s power through godly character:
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
- Be angry and sin not
- Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath
- give no opportunity to the devil
- Let the peace of Christ rule your heart
- cast all your anxieties and care upon Jesus – He cares
- Do good to those who hate you
- Put on love, compassion, meekness, kindness, humility and patience
- Turn the other cheek when they revile you
- Go the extra mile when they could care less about you.
- Forgive those who hurt you
You make things worse by trying to scold them in your teaching. God has provided a better way – heartfelt and sustained prayer, relentless and courageous love. They are not necessarily easy to pull off, but once you step out in faith, God meets you at the point of your need. I urge you to pray hard for those who hurt you until the love of Jesus comes bursting out of your heart. When that happens, it will be easier to feed them when they are hungry or give them something to drink when they are thirsty, look them in the eye and say I love, hug them, smile at them and love on them. That’s how you stay bitter free.