Who is Intolerant?

Since when does being a Christian mean that you check your sensitivity and empathy at the door?

It’s something that I just don’t understand and something that generally infuriates me.

A blog-friend of mine has been going through a harrowing ordeal.  She battled breast cancer into remission once only to have it return with a vengeance less than a year later.  She beat it back again only to find another lump not long ago.  Understandably, that sent her mind spinning, and she understandably expressed that this has caused her to doubt God. 

It didn’t take long before scores of ‘the faithful’ showed up in droves to evangelize her.  I sat back and read in disbelief as person after person after person threw platitudes at her, urged her to ‘trust in Jesus’ and ‘gently’ berated her for her doubt.  It made me want to scream.  Folks who had never read the blog before showed up simply to ‘do the work of God.’  With every comment I cringed a little more.

My thinking was this:  If I was facing the thought of battling the beast that is cancer for the third time in far less than two years, and I expressed this struggle, it would make me shrink away from God to be so zealously pelted with platitudes and evangelistic cliches.  It would make me even angrier.  It would give me even more reason to doubt.  For as I read it seemed that His children were lying in wait to pelt a person in their weakness  all ‘in the name of Jesus.’ 

It seemed to only get worse when she posted that the lump was found to be nothing.  Then ‘the faithful’ seemed to come dangerously close to congratulating themselves for praying so hard that ‘God would show Himself,’ and instead of simply being thankful and happy with my friend, they ‘gently’ berated her for still having doubts.

I am a Christian.  I strive to keep my love of Christ at the center of my life.  I don’t always do a good job, but I try to throw myself into His grace.

There is this sense when people get really hot and bothered to evangelize someone that everything they do drips with ulterior motive.  We must speak gracefully and passionately, to gain them to the kingdom.  We must act lovingly to win them to Christ.  We must strive to make our behaviour the purest possible to influence them for God.

I can’t help but think….  NO!  NO!  We must love because God called us to.  We must love for the sake of loving.  If a person comes closer to Christ as a result, then fantastic…  But it seems so phony to me to do things simply with that motive in mind.

It seems terribly insensitive to me to beat someone about the head with Christian-speak when they are in a battle for their life…  When they are battling pain, and depression, and the thought of not seeing their children grow up.  It seems cruel to me to speak of running to God in the face of one who feels bereft by Him. 

When I am in those places, all I want is for someone to sit with me.  To let me know that I am ok there—that though I may be doubting Him, if the God who is good really is, He will meet me there with grace.  I need to be told this not with eloquent words, but with a hand slipped into mine, or a soft shoulder to sink into…  or with a wordless presence in the chair next to mine.

And what is so wrong with doubt anyway?  I have come to  believe that a healthy dose of doubt can actually strengthen one’s faith.  It keeps us from being mindless drones parrotting back every platitude we are offered at church or on Christian radio, or that we absorb in the Christian book store.   Life is hard…  Faith is hard.  There are so many things that are inexplainable…  paradoxical (yes, thank you Dr. Mannoia).  Why lie to oneself about that?  Why not be honest about it–to oneself, to others, even to God.  Isn’t He Big enough to meet us even there? 

I think all of these thoughts…  and then I think of my blogfriend, and the grace that she has shown.  Rather than shrinking away from these words, or lashing back, she remembers the intentions of the commenters are likely good and gives them the benefit of the doubt.  She says that she knows that these things comfort them and so they don’t upset her.

That is where the convinction comes in for me…  I can feel pretty self-righteous about all of this.  And…  too often (yes…  this time…  can you tell?) I do.  I don’t want to show grace.  I want to spit back and engage in a rousing game of “I’m a better Christian than you.”

But, though it seems so calculating and insensitive to me, the intent of these folks is to be loving…  To offer someone the hope that they have found.  I’ve been known to be over-zealous about things myself sometimes. 

So I’m talking to God about this–about my self-righteous knee-jerk reactions…  and what it means to speak truth in these situations.  Over at The Manning Board a discussion has begun about whether or not Christians serve to be ‘lamps on a hill’ or ‘super high-powered flashlights trained on people’s faces’ (thanks Meems!). 

May I strive to be a the former.

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6 thoughts on “Who is Intolerant?

  1. Hello.

    I saw your comment at Minerva’s and my curiosity was piqued as you vocalised exactly what I was thinking.

    In this post you haev summed up everything I thought and in the end I concluded that their intentions were good even if their words were heavy handed.

    I must say I particulalry had difficulty with the idea that her suffering was part of a plan. I find that very hard to accept so I can only wonder at her response.

  2. I think that this is wonderful, Val. I too do not begrudge the Christian blogger who linked to Min–but the countless readers who came over and blindly spouted oversimplified statements totally disregarded Min’s struggle. It’s as if they got together and said, “Who cares how YOU feel about your cancer, let me tell you how I feel!”

    That is what I had a problem with. Instead of acknowledging that she has been through a rough time lately and that sometimes it is hard to reconcile one’s faith with other aspects of one’s life, the readers completely just spouted the same old crap. They didn’t even think about how that might feel to Min.

    In situations like that, I still think that the best thing to do is to simply say “I’m sorry.” In this case, it might have been, “I’m sorry and I hope that you find a way to reconcile this dilemma in a way that you are comfortable with.”

    People just don’t get it.

  3. I would rather have emailed this to you, but I lurked on over here…and don’t like to leave without “saying” I had been here-

    I must admit that I was one of “the faithful” who showed up. It is hard to assume one’s “tone” in writing without knowing the person. I am just a simple mom who loves the Lord and wants to at least explain my reason for a comment that was apparently not received as it was intended. Sometimes when it appears that someone is at a breaking point and may reject their only Hope…I can’t help but speak up with the only Hope there is…and yes, that hope is repenting of sins and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. You said “It seems terribly insensitive to me to beat someone about the head with Christian-speak when they are in a battle for their life… ” Oh, my sister in Christ, if not then…when else- if we don’t tell her the Truth…who will? Something is terribly wrong when we have put winning a suffering soul for Christ on the back burner and put the more PC version that leads to nowhere on the front. To win a soul for Christ *is* our main purpose here. When someone may be dying…we need to make haste..not sit back-would you agree? People are going to a place the Bible calls hell every day by the droves. Perhaps my zeal for trying to direct the suffering away from this place rings louder than what you would interpret as compassion..I don’t know what to say about that. I will ask the Lord to search my heart and give me wisdom and more sensitivity concerning the suffering..I can always use instruction. My concern is this…if an outpouring of Christian love that comes out in droves, like what I read on your friend’s site, hardens your heart rather than softens it- that is heart*breaking*. Now, I figure that you were probably just anticipating a *typical* hurt reaction from your friend under the circumstances, and you were being sensitive to that and taking/supporting what you believed her stance to be. If we underestimate the work of God or try to stick our hand in it (yes-it goes both ways)to save embarrassment or conviction- we miss out on the big picture! If this outpouring was not of God, she most def. could have been deeply hurt and angry, but God, I believe, *was* in it and chooses to bless in spite of our lack of eloquence and proper training on those struggling with cancer. I am just tickled that she does not have a recurrence, and I am honored to have been allowed to pray for her. It was a priviledge to witness His work there on that blog and then the revealing of a benign vice cancerous tumor was just thrilling! I truly rejoiced with her! God gets any and all credit for any work done. I know that you love the Lord, and of course you want to see souls saved…don’t apologize for your fellow Saints, don’t be embarrassed for our love of God. Those of us who have seen Him at work in our trials look to encourage others- to spread the hope that is within us! The Bible encourages us to do so! Pray for us that we will be able to better word our encouragement…that we will be given wisdom to pray. I would *never* want to add insult to injury and if my comments were misunderstood as insensitivity or pat or reflect badly on my Heavenly Father, please don’t hold it against Him. In the best way I could, I tried to lift Him up since He is the only true Comforter, and His Word says it all so much better than any of us ever could. I realize my comment may be unwelcome…I deleted it a couple of times before hitting submit. Praying and trusting the Lord will use it to mend what appears to be an offense between sisters in Christ. In Him-Heather Eph 6:19 This comment is horribly long, and I don’t blame you if you don’t want to post it.

  4. “I can’t help but think…. NO! NO! We must love because God called us to. We must love for the sake of loving. If a person comes closer to Christ as a result, then fantastic… But it seems so phony to me to do things simply with that motive in mind.”

    That is SO TRUE! I love how you say that… I hate the idea of evangelism as “I love you, wanna come to church with me?” I think this generation sees through that kind of fake religion… they want to see a real love of God in our lives.

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