The Modern Pilgrim's Journey

Winds of Challenge-What to do When Fellow Believers Attack


The Modern Pilgrim #12- In which Pilgrim is wounded by friendly fire

Painful wounds can come from unexpected places. A dear friend. Maybe a family member. Or fellow Christians. The people we count on to support us, sometimes attack us. We expect our family homes to welcome and refresh us. We expect the same of fellow God-followers.

When arrows fly inside Christ’s body, there’s pain aplenty. Like a soldier who accidentally fires upon a comrade from his own platoon. Friendly fire. Unexpected injuries. Brought down in our own trenches. We expect our enemy to attack us, not our buddies.

Decades ago, a key couple in our church invited us to attend a movie. Because of their position as spiritual leaders, we didn’t check out the plot prior to showtime. Then, our hosts chose the front row. We hate the front row, but politely stayed silent.  Silent until the plot confronted us with nudity. Gigantic nudity. There in the front row. Ken and I gasped loud enough to startle our hosts. They glanced at us quizzically then returned to munching popcorn.

Ken and I stared at the floor for that scene and several others, timid about walking out. We tried not to offend them. Instead, we sacrificed our convictions and grieved the Holy Spirit. The couple still took offense. Our after-movie conversation limped awkwardly. They didn’t grasp our strong response to “just a little nudity.” An attempt to explain our convictions about such things sounded priggish. Losses all around on that night.

This is not about guidelines for media. That’s between you and the Holy Spirit. My goal is to prepare you for that unexpected friendly fire.   

When God calls you higher, don’t be surprised if other believers challenge your exit from lower territory. Ground where they are comfortable. Your presence there, affirmed theirs. But when you pull up stakes, that can create moments when the Holy Spirit causes them to reflect and think. Not usually comfortable.

I used to gossip. I’m still tempted. When I used to trash talk, I encountered people who view it as I do now. Destructive. Unmerciful. One time, a sister in a group conversation said, “Hey guys, I think our conversation drifted. We need to stop.” I felt shame but also anger towards her for calling us all out. We stopped, but I thought, “When did she go all Susie spiritual?” The Holy Spirit brought conviction. I didn’t like it.

If you long to follow God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, you may be wounded in your own trench. God is calling every true follower higher and deeper. Not all who call themselves Christians will answer that call. When our progress creates an uncomfortable, Spirit-generated stirring in others, they can put their laser site on us, mistakenly. Let me share some strategies that will help build your grace quotient for those moments.  And keep you from firing back.

  • Let offenses go quickly.  

When someone offers arguments or sarcasm towards our spiritual posture, it’s easy to become defensive and offended. That’s a trap of Satan. Christ endured hatred and mocking for years, up until the moment of his last breath. He saw the emotions behind the words. Fear. Conviction. Shame. Confusion. I try to say something like, “Well, I might be off base, but this is how God is leading me. He might be leading you a different way.” Neutralize their attack with humility and kindness.

  • Explain your position, if asked, but don’t argue it.

Your job is not to persuade people into living by the same set of convictions as you. Beyond the clear commands of Scripture which every believer must obey, the Holy Spirit leads each of us uniquely, away from temptation and into obedience. My grandfather, Charles Robins, hustled pool and gambled, pre-Christ. He couldn’t tolerate a deck of normal playing cards in his home. Too many dark memories and temptations. Many decks of cards live at my house. They contain no bad memories for me. They don’t tempt me to anything beyond losing at Euchre. (No money involved)

  • Be prepared to explain your choices and standards.

“I just don’t feel right about it,” is not a testimony. Be authentic. Share your process of leaving certain behaviors and patterns behind and grabbing hold of the new things God offers you. This is how we encourage one another and spur one another on to good works.

  • Don’t harbor a judgmental attitude.

Since none of us are the Holy Spirit’s junior partner, we don’t know his workings inside another life. Pride criticizes. Yes, that brother smokes cigarettes right now. A sister watches that TV show God spoke to you about years ago.I need to pray not judge because I have no idea what greater battles they may be engaged in. This keeps my heart pure and pride kicked to the curb.

Yes, sometimes folks choose worldly behavior because they are worldly Christians. Pray. Don’t lecture. Offer opinions only when asked for them.  

There are winds of resistance blowing against the pilgrim who wants the deeper life. Somedays it seems like that’s the only response to our spiritual journey. Be comforted. Jesus is the friend who never leaves. The Holy Spirit is the perfect guide and teacher. The Father rains down daily provision and mercies. And bonus, there is a “cloud of witnesses,” cheering us on from heaven.

Who do you need to pray for this week instead of secretly judging? Are you ready to explain your standards to a skeptic or mocker? Are you able to set your face into the winds of resistance and let them invigorate, not intimidate?

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