SHOOTING OUR WOUNDED
Unhealthy Christians will not just shoot their wounded; they will
drag them through the mud until they are unrecognizable.
When we use shaming, shunning, judging, and condemning to try to “fix” someone instead of providing a grace-based process of recovery, healing, and restoration, it’s like shooting them with a 470 Nitro Express, leaving them with a gaping wound, many times causing them to walk with a limp the rest of their life if they’re ever even able to get back on their feet again.
Unhealthy Christians will not just shoot their wounded; they will drag them through the mud until they are unrecognizable. Sometimes it doesn’t stop there – they are then hung in effigy to remind others how it is when we get out of line. [Effigy: a roughly made model of a particular person, made in order to be damaged or destroyed as a protest or expression of anger.]
It is said that the Christian army is the only army that shoots their wounded. How did you feel when you read that? Chances are it angered you because of one of two reasons:
1. You’re the one who’s been shot.
2. You’re the one who pulled the trigger.
This is a VERY sensitive subject.
Both a shooter and a victim are in deep need of healing, but the one with the deepest wounds is probably the one doing the shooting; it is hurt people who hurt people. What the shooter is really saying is, “I can’t trust you, and I don’t trust what God is doing in you, so I have to control the situation until I believe you have seen the error of your ways.” Actually, they’re really saying, “I don’t trust God.”
If the one who has been shot understands God’s grace and is in a community of grace-based believers, the wound is one that God can heal if the wounded one chooses the healing path of trust and forgiveness. The healing process starts vertically. It begins with a repenting and/or forgiving that happens between me and God. When I refuse to forgive one who has sinned against me, I will remain angry and resentful. This is sin, whether it feels like it or not. Before forgiveness can be extended to the offender (horizontal), my vertical relationship with God must be made right by asking God to forgive my ungodly response and asking the Holy Spirit to give me the strength and conviction to do what I cannot do on my own. Only then am I prepared to make things right with the other person. Likewise, when I refuse to repent to someone I’ve offended, I remain guilty and will (rightly) experience God’s conviction. I need to repent, to get things right between myself and God (that’s the vertical) before I can make them right with the one I offended (horizontal). And making things right isn’t just saying we’re sorry. Many times it requires us to go to the one we’ve sinned against and ask them how what we’ve done has affected them. That process can bring amazing trust and love back into a broken relationship where the enemy has tried to steal, kill, and destroy.
God reveals His love for us through His Word, through His creation, and through the love of others. But when others have forsaken us and broken trust by dragging us through the mud – by gossiping, shaming, shunning, judging, or condemning – we can become calloused. When we are secure in our true identity, through the love of our Father, we will discover that He uses the pain and attacks to make us stronger, less prideful, and more capable of acting and loving like God loves.
Paul talks about this in his second letter to the church at Corinth:
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-10)
The tragedy is that the one doing the shooting doesn’t understand the true nature of God, and will continue to lay others open with their barrage of fire until they realize their deep need of God’s amazing grace, and accept His unconditional love and soul-cleansing forgiveness, purchased for them through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
So then, what does loving like God look like? Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG) gives us a great picture of that:
“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
I recently sat across from a man who sobbed as he shared his story of how he was devastated by the church where he’d been on staff for years, how they’d fired him after he confessed that he’d been participating in an addictions program for those struggling with porn, to try and break free from the enemy’s stronghold in his life. He hadn’t acted out with another woman, but the tentacles of something he’d been exposed to as a child had begun wrapping themselves around his mind years later, when he was burned out working long hours in the church. When I asked what caused him to move back into his addiction after years of being clean, he explained, “In ministry, everyone wants something from you. In my mind I can pretend that the woman on the screen wants to know me, love me, and give herself to me with nothing expected in return. I just needed to feel wanted.” After meeting with this former pastor several times, I asked him if he’d ever go back into full-time ministry again. After a long pause, he lowered his head and sorrowfully said, “I don’t think I ever could.” This pastor believes he can’t serve anymore, because the church promoted humiliation instead of humility.
I’ve coached women who have struggled with the same addiction. One shared how she’d become addicted to porn and had had sex with three men in recent months because she just wanted to feel loved. Sexual addictions aren’t limited to men; male or female, the enemy just knows how to find that one weakness in our armor, then convince us that “thing” will complete us. Sin has an immediate payoff – that’s why it can become addictive. And sin doesn’t care about your denomination, position, age, or gender. The ultimate goal of the enemy is to fill you with shame, causing you to go into hiding. Once he has you there, he can sink his fangs deep into you, body and soul, paralyzing even the strongest believer unless those lies get untwisted by the Truth.
Sometimes our greatest pain comes from the lies we give ourselves permission to believe. It amazes me how convincingly we can say that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), yet our actions show that we really believe we should be experiencing shame and condemnation – and from a God who sent his only son to die for all of our sins! Most of us can recite John 3:16, but how many of us know John 3:17?
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him.”
If God didn’t send the Son into the world to judge (or condemn) the world, then why do we think it’s our job to judge or condemn others? Did I miss something? Did God somehow write in Scripture that he’s given sinful man a license to judge – like a concealed carry permit, where we are allowed to pull out our spiritual gun and fire it at someone we believe deserves to be shot?
MEETING WITH MY “SPIRITUAL YODA”
I was sitting with my friend, Derek. He’s a man who has had a huge influence on me over the past decade – discipling me week after week (sometimes daily), repeatedly walking with me through my own sin and pain and back to health. We were talking about this exact concept, where we think it’s our job to fix and control others. Derek is like a “spiritual Yoda” who is able to bring revelation in a way that will turn you upside down and leave you standing there with your mouth wide open. I was sharing with him what I’d written. The following was him using his “Jedi powers” to help me see what lay beneath the surface that I wasn’t seeing.
Derek: Brent, here is your assertion:What the shooter is really saying is, “I can’t trust you, and I don’t trust what God is doing in you, so I have to control the situation until I believe you have seen the error of your ways.” What they are really saying through their actions is, “I don’t trust God.”
At that point, he began unpacking and untangling the subject:
Often people feel like they have a responsibility to fix other people. The individual believes that if the other person is fixed, then the fixer will feel better. So they feel like they need the other person to get fixed, and will do whatever it takes to fix them. For example, I think I need my son to “get fixed” (say, by stopping smoking pot, or by getting better grades or going to church) so that I will look better. Then other people will think I’m a great dad, and I will feel good about my performance as a father. If my son does not “get better,” I think it makes me look bad, so I will try to fix my son.
The same thing happens in organizations – a church, for example. Say the pastor is caught using porn; obviously, this is a problem. The sad thing is, often it is a problem not because we care about the pastor who is caught in the grip of porn, but because it makes the organization look bad. We may threaten the sinner, or attempt to control their actions by forcing them to join an accountability group, go away for intensive counseling, or attend a 12-step recovery program. We will manipulate, humiliate, and even shun them. Why? Because we think the sinner makes the church look bad, so the church needs the person to get fixed so it can look better (and therefore feel better).
Sometimes people recognize that individuals and organizations really have no way to fix people at all. They recognize that God is the one who causes people to grow. Look at 1 Corinthians 3:6 – Paul plants, Apollos waters, but God causes the growth. So we think, “Well, since I can’t fix them, maybe God can fix them. That’s what Scripture says – God will fix them!” Well, that is not what Scripture says. The Bible does not say God will fix them. The Bible says God can fix them, but we cannot. We twist this logic and say, “Since I can’t fix them, God will fix them. If I can’t succeed in controlling or manipulating someone else to change, I’ll try to get God to control and manipulate them to change. That way I (or the organization) can feel better.” But then God doesn’t fix them; in fact, God sometimes actually gives them completely over to their sin and wipes his hands totally clean from them! (See Romans 1:24-25) Now what do we do? Now we get mad at God for not fixing them, or we take back the reigns and decide we will try and fix them. “I need them to be fixed! They must be fixed!” Why? Because I need to feel better (or I think the organization needs to look better).
What is the solution? The solution is grace. The reality is that Christians do not need to be fixed; they are already fixed – that’s why Christ died on the cross. However, many people are scared of this solution; they think grace will make people sin more. Actually, just the opposite is the case. Let’s use the example of the pastor looking at porn. Often the reason a man looks at porn is because he is not feeling good about himself – he’s under a lot of stress, or feeling worthless because his church (in the case of a pastor) is not growing fast enough. So he looks at porn to get a spike of dopamine so he can cover the feeling of being a loser. Maybe some people at his church have been critical of him, so he looks at porn and imagines that at least someone is approving of him, even if only in his imagination. What about the church member who drinks too much – why is he drinking? Maybe he feels like a loser because his wife does not love him anymore, so he drinks to cover the pain. The action of sin is often simply a way to mask the feeling that we are not good enough, valuable enough, or worthy enough. But the Gospel says that Christ died so that you may receive the gift of righteousness (Rom. 3 and Rom. 5). In other words, when Christ comes into your life, He makes you good enough. Good enough to be loved by God. Good enough to go to heaven! He does that, not you. That is grace. But the pastor and the alcoholic simply forgot they were already good enough, so they sinned to mask the pain.
So now back to the solution. If the problem is that they felt like they were not good enough, what is the solution? Many people and organizations believe the solution to someone who sins because they feel worthless is to shun them, fire them, or even humiliate them by parading them in front of a congregation to expose the sin. It should be obvious that this would actually cause more feelings of unworthiness, thus more sin. However, imagine if the pastor and the alcoholic were reminded of who they already are. Imagine what might happen if they were reminded that, because of Christ, they have Christ’s righteousness in them, they have the love of God completely enveloping them, they are completely accepted and good enough! Now what happens to the need for porn to mask the pain of unacceptance? Porn is no longer needed. Where is the need for alcohol to cover the pain of being unloved – a loser – not good enough? Gone! Sin is overcome by the power of grace!