Psalm 11:2 For look! The wicked bend their bow, They make ready their arrow on the string, That they may shoot secretly at the upright in heart. (NKJV)
It is part of the human experience to be attacked by someone else. It is even more a part of Christianity to be persecuted further simply for loving Jesus. Our fleshly response is to be defensive or to retaliate.
There are many different reasons why the attacks happen, either by unbelievers or fellow Christians. The mature Christian will learn to discern these motives and respond accordingly. Very often, the attacker is hurting, stressed, confused or misled. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t times when the attacks are just simply evil being played out. Most certainly that happens routinely but sometimes, I’d even say in my experience, MOST of the time, there are circumstances behind the motives that open a door of ministry for us.
What separates Christians from the world is that even when we are attacked we do not seek revenge or stoop to retaliation. Don’t let this be confused with defending our families, employer or friends. When attacks on us (and those around us) result in our unselfish and sacrificial defense of others, that is a good thing. But how should we personally respond, feel and act ourselves concerning the wicked person attacking us? So far we’ve looked at:
- The real motive behind the attack on us: hurt
- Our response as Christians towards them: sympathy
Sometimes people lash out at us because of hurt in their own life. Empowered by the Holy Spirit we can actually have sympathy rather than anger because we understand that this hurting person has no access to the only Person who can truly heal their pain. Next time someone slings an arrow at you, look carefully for signs that this person might be reacting to hurt in their own lives without the Great Physician to heal them.
- The real motive behind the attack on us: stress
- Our response as Christians towards them: serving
Stress from work, family, church or health can cause people to respond in the most bizarre and abnormal ways. We live in a stressful world, in stressful times. When someone attacks us while they are under great stress, I believe the most effective Christian response is to serve them. Help them alleviate the stress. This may open the door of their heart so that you can share with them the ultimate stress relief.
Immaturity & Patience
Personal attacks based on immaturity can come from many bases: emotional immaturity, life immaturity, spiritual immaturity or immature Biblical knowledge. Since any of these can be simply because of “youth”, we will discuss them assuming adulthood.
Emotional immaturity can be from, among other things, inconsistent spiritual discipline, poor upbringing or surrounding yourself with other emotionally immature people. These types of people often attack others because their primary concern is self: self-defense, self-interest, self-promotion and self-preservation. Any threat to “self” often evokes an attack whether deserved or not, and given that the starting point is from emotional immaturity, usually the attacks themselves are immature: gossip, lies, name-calling and irrationality.
Immaturity about life in general can be more subtle and is not easily defined. It can come from circumstances such as the “silver spoon” syndrome, where over-affluence has skewed a person’s perspective on life. It might come from a “sheltered life” where a person just has not been exposed to many hardships or difficult situations. Sometimes it can be manifested because of the “bed of roses” situation where a person has just had, for whatever reason, a pretty easy life, void of many difficulties or tests. Maybe the most common source of “life immaturity” is our pleasure-centric society that churns out multitudes of young “adults” in their mid to late twenties and early thirties who have done nothing much but learn how to take tests, use credit cards, short-change the employer, party, be entertained and indulge in various forms of pleasure.
Spiritual immaturity is the product of a weak, inconsistent or misled spiritual life. The misled spiritual life may actually practice quite a bit of discipline, but if it is not discipline that draws one to the true God of Heaven, then it is not just neutral, it is destructive. The weak and inconsistent spiritual life stem from two main problems: carnality and worldliness. Closely related, they emphasize two aspects of sinful man: following your fleshly appetites and indulging them with things of this temporal world.
Closely tied to that, and often the cause of spiritual immaturity is Biblical immaturity. This is simply the lack of Biblical knowledge and/or the application of it to your life. In some aspects, a lot of people enjoy an all-time HIGH level of Biblical knowledge thanks to all the resources available but employ an all-time LOW amount of it to their lives.
In some ways, Bible knowledge is at an all-time HIGH,
while the application of it is at an all-time LOW.
There are many other sources and reasons for immaturity but they all result in a form of ignorance. You see, once a person KNOWS how to act or respond and they don’t, then we are not talking about immaturity…. now we’re talking about malice or deliberate deception. If a person slings the arrows of attack knowing full well what they are doing, rather than acting from a position (though still wrong) of immaturity (ignorance in whatever form), then it is a whole different matter to consider. So how should we respond to the truly immature? It’s probably the easiest to respond to of all the reasons we are studying. Patience….
How can a Christian help but respond to personal
attacks with loving patience when it comes
from the truly immature or ignorant?
Patience. It’s easy to explain by using our children as an example. When our immature children act out, act up or make bad choices based in obvious immaturity, what is our response? Patience, teaching, guidance, direction. Yes, there may be consequences or discipline involved but the root objective is to help them mature in whatever form our response is manifested.
Take for example the always fun and common “arrow” that is often shot at parents by adolescents or teenagers: “I hate you!” Some parents are lucky enough to hear it said directly to them, but often it’s said from one child to another about the parent. It doesn’t feel good at all to hear it, but any good parent recognizes that this attack comes from immaturity (the vast majority of the time). Take this same concept and understand that personal attacks based in immaturity are not much more than “childishness” wrapped in adult technique or sophistication.
Of course you don’t want to haul off and call the other person a “child” nor do you even want to hold that condescending assessment privately. Understanding immaturity as the source requires us to be patient in response and assumes that we are more interested in the other person’s growth than we are about our own precious feelings or reputation. If you can relate and understand that children or youths sometimes engage in hurtful attacks because of immaturity, then you can understand that immature adults have simply grown physically but not emotionally or spiritually.
What does the patience response look like? First and foremost is starts with calm forgiveness, a real interest in the personal growth of the attacker, and foundational priority that God’s glory is more important than avenging our feelings.
The patient response tries to determine the source or type of immaturity and hopes to gain a receptive audience with the attacker on the wings of forgiveness and love. It doesn’t always work out that way, for sure, but it will NEVER work out that way if we don’t even try.
Patient forgiveness doesn’t always give a
chance to help our attacker, but you
will NEVER get the chance without it.
Patience is a God-given fruit of the Spirit so every Christian is capable of it:
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (NKJV)
Through that patience, you will naturally have the opportunity to show many of the others: kindness, selflessness and love. The alternative is to retaliate or ignore… neither of which has any chance of helping your attacker grow in Christ, or find Christ. So what have you got to lose?
The next time an immature person fires off a few arrows of personal attack at you, secret or otherwise, try responding in patience and see if maybe it will open the door to helping someone grow up. Maturity comes with time and patience. As Christians, we may be the only people who will ever have the understanding and willingness to help a person mature. may be the only people who will ever have the understanding and willingness to help a person mature.
Lord God, help us to respond in righteousness to those who attack us. Help us to respond in such a way that our attackers clearly see their need for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: To be able to respond in love and compassion to an attacker takes a willful decision AHEAD of time. Rarely are we ready to respond instinctively with patience and understanding if we simply react to an attacker. We must decide proactive NOW to respond in love THEN. We can save ourselves so much stress and aggravation if we respond in righteousness to those who attack us rather than respond through our flesh with revenge and defensiveness.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?