Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.
That’s kind of our own situation in this messed up world where we find ourselves. That’s your life. That’s my life. In this world that there has been a great fall. Something is messed up and broken . . . not just broken but shattered. We want it set right, but we can’t seem to get it right.
Relationships need restoration.
This has been a painful week for me. Within twenty-four hours I received two texts from two different men that were very threatening and hostile.
I tried to mediate a conflict between two Christian men last year. It didn’t go well. But last week I sent one of those men a compliment after not having any communication with him for months. He had really helped a mutual friend of mine and I sent him a text expressing my gratitude for how God had used him in my friend’s life. But the old wound that I had tried to mediate was still open and he sent me the following correspondence:
“Joe, you stopped me from confronting [Name]. I should have never let you do that and will not make that mistake again. I invite you to put me out of your mind and move on. Our relationship is over.”
A ministry leader in another state reached out to me because he had heard that I can help pastors who are hurting. I invited him to come to Colorado so that we could spend some time together. We set that up time for him to come. I knew a relative of his and told him, “Tell your “relative” I said hi.”
The next day I received a long text from the “relative” after not having spoken to him for nearly two years:
“I received your message via my [family member]. Do not ever mention that you know me via my family and do not ever correspond to me through anyone we know. You are a dangerous person and I have a responsibility to protect the innocent and vulnerable. You have a hidden agenda.”
I was standing in the checkout line of our local grocery store this week when a homeless man that we have helped here at the church several times; smiled and said, as he walked by me, “Hello, brother.” He shot me a malicious look and yelled, “I’m not your [expletive deleted] brother!”
I went to my woodshed to pray about these hostile encounters and as I sat quietly, listening to the birds sing and the wind slip through the boughs of nearby pines, I sensed the Lord say something like, “What do you see reflected in the faces of your enemies?”
That led me to ask a few questions about myself.
- Where did I best reflect Christ in my relationship with my brothers?
- When did I least reflect Christ with them?
- What made these moments so difficult?
- How badly do you want your relationships to be restored?
What I came to see in my own soul is that I looked upon each of these men as small-souled and immature. I thought of them that way, and that probably meant that I treated them in that way in hundreds of ways that no one might really notice except me and them.
What I have come to know is that I cannot reflect the love of Christ to my brothers and hold them in contempt at the same time. I want to do both, but it is not possible.
Contempt is a fouler form of hate. It is worse because it assumes personal superiority. It is the opposite of humble love. It is antithetical to being the kind of person who would, without manipulation, remove an outer garment, gird themselves with a loin cloth, pick up a basin of water and a towel and wash an enemy’s dirty feet.
I found a prayer that has encouraged my heart by John O’Donohue. Perhaps it will yours as well.
I have a long way to go before I reflect King’s love for my hostile brothers. But at least now I know what needs working on in my own soul. For that I am grateful.
What do you see reflected in the face of your enemy?