by Pastor Tim Burt
I read a story in the newspaper that said this: “Sixteen years after a jury called him a killer and a judge sentenced him to prison, a former Tustin Marine corporal stood in a Santa Ana courtroom Thursday and wept as he was declared a free and innocent man. Apologizing for a justice system’s grave error, Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald told 38-year-old Kevin Lee Green that he hoped the second half of his life would somehow make up for the lost time.”
Another story reported this: “The day he was wrongly convicted of rape, Calvin Johnson Jr. stood firm and told the judge, “As God is my witness, you’ve got the wrong man.” He served 16 years of a life sentence, believing one day he’d be exonerated. Johnson was freed Tuesday after DNA evidence proved he could not have committed the crime. “I don’t see any reason to harbor any bitterness,” Johnson said as he left the Clayton County courthouse with his father and two sisters. “If you hold something like that inside you, it just destroys you. Now it’s time for me to go on with my life.”
These real life stories remind us of the story we know of Joseph and the wrongful accusations against him by a woman who lusted after him and then falsely accused him. It resulted in his sitting in prison for many years. Like the men in the newspaper articles, Joseph kept his heart right and the Lord was able to work in His life and bring him out. Jesus was also falsely accused over and over again. It was false accusation that led to His walk to Calvary to die for our sins.
Prov 6:19 says that something God hates is this: “… a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” I will give you a simple example of this. When I’ve had people in my office for counseling, a majority are there because of getting offended at someone else. “So and so said this.” “So and so did that.” “This is going on in my life and it’s so and so’s fault!” The truth is, for every person’s story of being hurt; there is another side and another perspective. And this is the saddest part. The majority of all offenses are over misunderstandings that could have been worked out by two reasonable people that would sit down face-to-face and kindly talk it out.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned in life is that when something goes wrong, keep your emotions in check and find out what happened. Get the facts before you let your emotions go one inch. People get upset over something, let their emotions vomit out hurtful words and anger, and create an eruption of trouble that could have been easily resolved through conversation and getting the facts. Anger can feel like a sneeze – good to get out but it always carries regret and hurts more than it helps! James 1:20 (NLT) says, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”
People too often hurt each other and never work through it. Most people are horrible at working through conflict. Even though the Bible instructs us to go back to those that “we have ought with,” and work it out. Very few do. Most let it churn inside and then let it evolve to bitterness and deep hurt. Then most go around painting verbal pictures of “what so and so did.” When this happens, that person could be acting as a false witness or slanderer. They could be getting someone in trouble or decreasing their good name by the words of hurt that they speak against the one they were hurt by. People do this! They want to justify themselves and hurt back.
We want to make sure we are not unwarily giving place to this in our lives. It will harden our heart in unforgiveness and bitterness. When this happens, we shut out God’s presence and the power that is available to help and heal. We become callous and insensitive to His presence, leadings, and promptings. Staying sensitive to God and His presence in our life is no insignificant matter. Therefore we have to put away the things that harden our hearts.
I don’t know of any greater weakness overall in the body of Christ than the ignorance of or unwillingness to work through relational conflict. In the story of Joseph, his brothers were just plain mean and jealous. There won’t be any great relational resolution with people who are wicked, hard, or mean. But, in the body of Christ, that should not be so.
We have a church of ten thousand people. Needless to say, I am busy on the weekends. I am a very smiley person by nature but, sometimes in church, when I am helping someone or taking care of a situation, I’m on a mission. On at least thee occasions over the 30 years at church, I’ve had people say to me, “Pastor, you are mad at me aren’t you?” Being shocked to hear that I asked them why in the world they’d think such a thing. “Because you walked by me without smiling or saying hi.” “When did I do that?” “Two years ago.” I was always shocked but apologetic. I assured them I wasn’t mad at them and most likely didn’t even notice them as I was helping someone else.
The question is this; Are they now going to be able to go back and tell all those people over the past two years that they had told I was rude to them, that it was a misunderstanding based on their wrong perspective? Proverbs 10:18 (NLT) says, “Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool.” Damaging someone’s name or reputation because of a hurtful perspective that could be resolved is wrong and makes you foolish. Proverbs 20:3 (NLT) gives us a better standard! “Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling.” If we acted as Christians, kindly searched for the facts of a misunderstanding and dealt with it, we would be doing what God wants us to do and it would be a “mark of honor.”
The Apostle Paul told and modeled what our high standard should be in Acts 24:16. “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” Paul makes it simple. “I don’t stay offended – not at God or man!”
When we tear people down, the Holy Spirit is trying to get us to stop. We can sense it if we are sensitive to Him. If getting offended and talking to others about it is your norm, you will become hard and used to overriding God’s still small voice. The result will be, you will lose your ability to sense the presence of God that helps you forgive so that you can bring, power, life, direction, healing, miracles, and the touch of His love to others.
The thought of being cut off from all that God has for me gives me the chills. And so I choose to remind myself the Apostle Paul’s standard and live by it being full of the forgiveness Jesus forgave me with. “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.”
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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