Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Forgiveness, Truth, Lies, Love?

I have a stalker, who by his own admission is taking some pride in ‘getting’ at me. This stalker, a supposed Christian is one I have taken up for in the past, and I have offered Biblical reconciliation with him and his pastor. So far, he has refused. He is on facebook and despite the rules of use for facebook; he continues to violate them, on several occasions creating new accounts, and sending emails, calling me ‘childish’ for blocking him, despite the times he has called me a ‘sick pathetic looser’ or even a ‘sad idiot’. I have offered love and respect, and accepted his request for a friend invitation 3X, despite his lies, and untruths, and what seems more like jealousy than anything else. I finally decided to block him for good, and he has still maneuvered the system to send me no less than 4 messages filled with ridicule, lies and hate. I have as of yet named him by name, as I am not concerned about confronting his comments and actions publically. Despite his own tragedies, which I sympathize with, and even expressed concern about publically I can’t figure out his obsession with me and the ministry I am involved in. Despite reporting him several times to facebook I have not contacted him due to my own recognition of him stating he is sorry, him having a mental illness and constantly under a doctor’s care. I honestly don’t know if he has the ability or desire to come to rational conclusions, yet he continues on for a little while with no contact, and then back to the same thing. I suspect it is an issue related to either his illness or medication. I am not sure as I haven’t seen this person in so many years, and really never knew them very well.

Here is the question, when does one forgive, and move on and how difficult is it when not just your reputation but that of a ministry is at stake? What if you make every effort from a Biblical way to confront the issue but the person continues and refuses to accept reality? It is especially difficult when that person thinks they know you and in reality never has known you. Unfortunately, we live in a world where acquaintances think they know you. I have been fooled in this process, but am learning. I have let very few in my life get to know me. I was dealing with spiritual and psychological battles while growing up dealing with the things of my youth. To this day, I am not proud of those things, and have let few get to know me. I have met many on that same journey who have experienced the same emotions, and feelings. In many ways, our little club and the stories we tell and identity of those stories is the verification of truth. Of course on this, I have always felt the need to be able to verify truth, it was one of the things I was especially careful of in my book The Keystone Kid. I have offered up a willingness to provide names to verify the things I have said. Again, I am not proud of those things in my past, but I am honored that God has done so much since then.

I recently received the DVD of the Lifetime television movie Amish Grace for review. It is the powerful story of the school shootings and murders. The incredible story offers some tremendous insight into concepts like forgiveness and grace, and the reminder of the difficulty of those concepts were not lost on me. I was reminded of my own issues with the person who continues to stalk me and their own recognition of their mental illness, and attitudes. When the attacks get personal though, when they are made in ignorance and regarding the people of a church, or other ministry that has done so much good, what do you do? How do you respond?

While there are Biblical concepts to confrontation, the answers are not always clear or easy. The clearest is Matthew 18, here, if there is a dispute you try to work it out with the individual, if it isn’t worked out, then you go to the elders or pastor, possibly even another person to work with that person and you. In the situation which I have experienced, I have offered to do this with their pastor. If resolution doesn’t take place, and one is discovered to be wrong, then the church is to be made aware of the behavior and if need be, discipline to those who are wrong. How often have you seen this action take place? It should be noted, this is never done to punish, and it is done to bring the peson back into right relationship with Christ and those in the church. When across the miles, on the internet, or in a different church, the issue of forgiveness and truth become somewhat complicated, or do they?

Ultimately the Biblical model is Jesus, but even here, it isn’t as simple as some think. While Jesus never seems to have actively gone after individuals, he made his points clear, and he responded, at times, even sarcastically, when confronted by the religious community. Does that mean a lack of love from Jesus? I don’t think so but there is a time to stand for truth and distinguish the difference between the action of the individual and the potential of the individual. There are times the follower of Jesus has to stand for truth. Knowing when that is requires spending time with Jesus, reading the Bible, and studying Jesus teachings. Yet, some refuse to accept the truth of Jesus. Their allegiance is not to Jesus and the Kingdom principals he taught. Jesus did not engage in elongated arguments or debates with his detractors, nor did his followers. They let their lives speak truth. They continued in love and moved on, much like Paul did as a follower of Jesus when he and one of his partners in ministry just didn’t agree, and then moved on and went their separate ways.

Of course there is the assumption that in church we must all get along and agree. That just isn’t possible, as people are different. It isn’t that we should get along and agree but we can find areas where we recognize the greater good and greater harm, and do what is right. There will always be people we don’t agree with for one reason or another. Here, it is critical we keep the focus on the love of Christ that unites us. When we place ourselves over the love of the body, or church which Jesus calls his bride, and on our own desires, then we are in the wrong place. I have seen it get to the place where dishonesty takes place and people take up with, and accept their own perceived truths. I realize there are some who will imply and say that we have a responsibility of pointing out the false, at that point, we must use the tests the New Testament mentions as a guide or a test. That is, who do you say Jesus is, and are you willing to do what he says? If confronted with the biblical solution regarding personal disagreements of following for example the Matthew 18 concept, and you refuse, it is clear at that point, you are not willing to do what Jesus says. Following Jesus is required, not just in the easy things, but the hard things, it is one of the reasons we are admonished and warned of the need to take up our own cross, and follow Jesus daily.

As of late I have been confronted about several things I have said regarding my comments about Hollywood Jesus, and the population of the Tri-Cities. I have also been confronted about talking about the things God has done for me. Despite the importance of testimony as illustrated by Paul and other New Testament writers. Many need to be reminded, their testimony, isn’t just their conversion experience, it is the story of the continuation of God working in their life. For those that genuinely know me, they know I see myself in a lesser role than I likely should since God has abundantly shown me his love in so many ways. That said I am still amazed at the ways God has blessed me. I have repeatedly said, if God would and has done those things for me, he will for others. That isn’t to brag, I know my own unworthiness, it to describe the incredible ability of God.

Of the things I have been confronted with from one person is regarding my home town population and the visits at Hollywood Jesus website, the first was a mistake, and the other was the truth at the time the comment was made. I have been accused of either hyping myself up or lying about other things God has done for and through me. Regarding this one person, even though information and verification is provided, the person either ignores it or is so blinded to their own hate or jealousy they either can’t see it or refuse to see the truth. It is important to realize, in situations like this, the attitude of what drives a person says something about that person. One of my faults is that I have freely and sacrificially given of myself. I really don’t care about wealth, and those types of things. As a result, my family has suffered, but as I observe my daughter in particular and her example, I see a child who has chosen at least part of the path her father led, at least regarding the service and love to the poor, needy, outcast, and in recognizing the call and directive of Jesus that we be peacemakers. Unfortunately, many find ways to change the word of God to fit their theology, unfortunately, their theology may not be the ways of God. I have learned, those among Christian circles most often doing the attacking, are those who say they are following Jesus. Unfortunately, they either don’t care or ignore the harm they do to others, but not just others, but those seeking spiritual truth. Let me ask, would Jesus violate rules, and laws to accomplish his purpose? Would he have his followers harass others? Would he say he is sorry for his actions, and then go back to the same actions over and over?

The truth is, trying to emulate Jesus isn’t easy, but in the words of the famous philosopher Lynn Anderson, we need to remember; “I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain sometime.” Life isn’t always easy; it is far from easy to figure out. Life and getting along with others will be tough. People will say and do things we don’t appreciate. In those times it is important when we don’t know the answers to look to Jesus, our attitude, our actions, our questions; our answers are all encompassed in trying to be like him. Whether that be forgiving one another, or the things we do which would require another to forgive us.

I was on today checking out my friend Jon Trott’s facebook page and as usual he was stirring the pot. Not in a bad way but in a way that makes one think. He said some things regarding truth I thought was spot on. Jon wrote: “Truth belongs solely to God. My handling of the truth (as in discovering it regarding those wolves in sheep's clothing) does *not* mean I *have* the truth. At best, the truth has me. Just because I correctly discern error -- bigtime error in the case of Warnke, Stratford, and the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" myth spinners -- I should not compound that error by imagining that I become righteous simply because I tell the truth about unrighteousness. Only God is True in the ultimate sense. These things deeply affect me on a daily basis. I don't mean to posture in some sort of faux humility (confession: humility is a barely visible goal at best in my heart). But I very sincerely believe that love and truth are married. My love is only as strong as my words and actions reflect truthfulness. And since love is the goal of the Christian life, how can we not tell the truth -- even and esp. when it reflects poorly on ourselves?”

Jon said a mouthful there that transcends beyond just the aspect of truth, but from the aspect of where truth comes from. The truth is, God knows, God knows the heart, he knows the intent, it is my goal, my desire, that God’s truth is revealed through me and my life, and that includes having the ability to forgive even those, who may choose to nail me to a cross. My goal, my life, my example is Jesus, he knows, and his Spirit is still wholly powerful enough and able to convince me of where I am wrong, and of where I am right. May in all things, in all examples, Jesus be lifted up, and may my actions, and yours point people to the truth of Jesus. No other, Jesus!

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