Over the past several years, God has blessed me with many opportunities to be involved in a variety of Christian communities. As a child, I grew up in a small rural church. I attended a Christian university as an undergraduate student, and I have served in a variety of ministries as an adult. After many years of teaching in public schools, God called me to serve as a teacher and administrator at a local Christian school, and now I’m serving you as an intern counselor at ACU. Each calling has deepened my love and knowledge of God and his people. What a joy to work and serve the Lord with others who call Jesus their Savior and friend!
However, I have to be honest. In each of these communities, I have also experienced judgment, resentment, and betrayal. At times, I’ve been shocked by decisions and behaviors, including my own. Friends outside of the Christian community have challenged my desire to serve in these various ministries, pointing to the struggles they’ve witnessed within my own life. Why do we hurt one another when we are so loved and know the truth? Theologically we understand the answer to that question. We all fall short of the glory of God and are justified only by his grace (Romans 3: 23, 24). We are in fact a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God gives us the power to love like he loves (1 John 4:7-12). Yet, the truth is that even when we live in community with other Christians, we may at times feel judged, unloved, or unaccepted.
As believers, we’ve all experienced some type of loss or pain – whether it’s the result of our own choices or the choices of others. Many of us carry that hurt in our hearts, and it leaks out when we least expect it. If we are to be honest with ourselves, our judgments of others are really about us. We react out of fear – and we often hurt those we love the most. We are saints who sometimes sin in our thoughts and reactions.
What I’m learning is that we have a choice. Once we confront our own hurt and fears and take responsibility for them, God gives us the power to love rather than destroy. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Consider the last time you snapped at a friend, judged another silently, condemned someone because they were different. What if we chose to respond differently, even when we feel hurt, afraid, or different? There is such power when we simply slow down, reflect on our own heart, and trust the Lord to guide us in our choices. Jesus calls us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). To love is to trust God with our feelings and our vision of others. We set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), and recognize that God can transform us by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). The unity we crave comes when we depend on Him and respond with a tender heart and humble mind (1 Peter 3:8).
God cares about our mind and understands the battle that rages there for us. He promises His peace to us if we focus on him (Philippians 4:8-9). My prayer for us all is that we recognize His power in our lives and choose to think differently about ourselves, others, and the world around us.
Jody Light Cecil