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Wow! What a weekend! From the outside, it didn’t look like much. But a lot happened. I was on a website that I have been a member of for a few years. On occasion, it has gotten a little crazy, but this past week, it was way more than that! Usually, I stay out of the crazy and come back a few days later. That’s the advantage of being online.

But one person was being amazingly abusive and justifying his abusive behavior in all manner of ways. When one person tried to get the administrators of the blog (purportedly Christian) to take ownership, they wouldn’t.  Instead of agreement, many turned on the person requesting some standards to prevent this kind of poor behavior. Somehow, that rude behavior was seen as this person expressing himself and we were supposed to give him the “grace” to do that. OH. MY. GOODNESS! I started to lose control.

Words were thrown around like grace, judgment, and gossip. The were used in ways so far from their meaning that I was appalled! Yes, I know you aren’t from that group. But because I know that for some of you, your scared, overwhelmed or broken hearts have come from church conflicts or conflicts that happened with other Christians that were not handled well, I will write about this topic today. I’m only writing about verbal abuse, not church conflicts, and I’m sure I won’t begin to cover the topic in one post!

What is grace?

Grace is when you receive a blessing when you deserved punishment. It is most often used in reference to the Gospel which is GOD’s unmerited favor to us who in no way deserve it. But it has nothing to do with ignoring our sin. The context of grace is that a GOD who is perfectly just and holy (as well as loving and merciful) had to deal with sin in a just way. That is why Jesus had to come to earth as the perfect GOD/man to live a perfect life in order to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.

Grace is when you receive a blessing when you deserved punishment. But it has nothing to do with ignoring our sin. The context of grace is that a GOD who is perfectly just and holy, (loving and merciful) had to deal with sin in a… Click To Tweet

Only a perfect man could pay for the sin of another human. Only GOD could pay for the sin of an infinite number of people and their sins. And of course, blood had to be shed to pay for sin. This is the context of grace.

Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood,
and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Hebrews 9:2

 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
but who will by no means clear the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:6-7

You can imagine the lurch in my stomach when I hear someone wanting to excuse abusive language that is tearing down people as humans, in the name of “grace.” Looking the other way is not what GOD did regarding our sin. So when someone comes to a group, uses abusive and coarse language, we may find it easier to look the other way, but we just can’t! And we definitely can’t call it “grace” when we try to look the other way! It must be dealt with by justice, or if it is illegal behavior, we must use the justice system, imperfect as it is.

What is the difference between judging and discernment?

I think in these situations, there is often a misuse of terms. Judging is GOD’s job. He is the only one able to judge us accurately. He is the One who knows the total truth about us. Our attempts at judging someone else are inappropriate when we judge their motives. We just don’t know another person’s motives.

We also don’t have all the facts. We don’t know everything about the future or the past of someone else. We don’t know what is going on in the heart of another person. We can do some guessing, but we aren’t always right.

Judging is GOD's job. Judging is inappropriate when we try to judge the motives of another person. Discernment has more to do with telling the difference between truth and error. It can help us understand how to apply truth to… Click To Tweet

Telling someone that they aren’t a Christian because they do or don’t do a certain behavior like drink moderately, dress in a certain way, etc. The list is very long.  Actually, there are many people who commit sins mentioned in the 10 commandments who are in the process of being sanctified. GOD is working on them as He is working in us. There are some behaviors that need church discipline if the person is unrepentant, but that is another story for a different post. It isn’t our job to make these judgements.

Discernment is a much more humble approach. The word discernment has more to do with telling the difference between truth and error. It can also relate to understanding how to apply truth to life. In this setting, discernment helps me see trends that may indicate that a person is stumbling along the way. ( A term I recently heard and like.)

How often do we have people that we hear have fallen into deep sin and we wonder what happened?

Then we stop and realize, we haven’t seen them in a long time when we used to see them often. As we think back, we realize we should have paid attention at certain points when we should have intervened and spoken truth to trends we were seeing.

A common trend is falling off in attending worship. Worship is a means of grace for each of us. It is not some magical place where you check something off the to-do list. It is a place where GOD has an opportunity to meet with you in a relatively quiet place through the preaching of His Word, corporate prayer, confession of sin, singing together, etc. Skipping a worship service isn’t necessarily a sin per se. But we need to ask ourselves why we take something this important so lightly. We are putting ourselves in a place where we can minister to others and GOD and others can minister to us. When we are stumbling, we need this more than anything! If we aren’t in a church where this can happen, we need to make some changes. To say we have been hurt in churches before is not a good enough excuse.

But I don’t judge you if you’re not at church. If I know you well, and realize I haven’t seen you there in awhile, I may ask if you are doing okay because I realize I have missed you. There is a difference. There are some people I need to give space to. Others, I have brought it up with and it was a good thing…because they wanted to be missed! They were struggling and needed encouragement.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. When it comes to discernment, one other thing it needs is humility. I don’t think of myself as very humble, but my approach here needs to be humble! It’s more like, “I’m seeing some trends and am concerned about x behavior. Could it be that there is a problem? Is there anything I can do to help? Any way I can pray for you?” My approach is one where I don’t assume I know what the problem is. I see some trends and I’m concerned for the person. That’s it. It opens a conversation.

What is abusive language?

Abusive language is language that puts the other person down and makes me look better…at least in my head! Usually it attacks the humanity of the other person. They don’t simply lie, they are a liar. They don’t simply make a mistake, they are labeled by that mistake or sin. This is the opposite of grace. Often, mixed in with this language is coarse language and profanity! If another person in the room, they feel very uncomfortable. Often, however, a verbal abuser is very clever and does this without an audience.

Abusive language is language that puts the other person down and makes me look least in my head! It attacks the humanity of the other person. They don't simply make a mistake, they are labeled by that mistake or sin. Click To Tweet

Here are some tips I have learned about this kind of abuser. I am not responsible to sit and listen to this person’s vile language. Despite the fact that some of what they may have to say about me is true, the way they are saying it is crude, evil and untrue. If I am a daughter of Jesus, I have been forgiven. I am clean. I am not that person they are presenting and I do NOT need to listen to the poison they are presenting. I can walk away. Even if this is happening in my own home, I can leave the room.  I can go outside. I can go to another room. But I do not have to listen to this. I can walk away and if necessary, tell this person that when they can talk to me in a more respectful way, I will be glad to converse with them. Often, it will be surprising to see the dynamic change. It will be helpful to teach your children to understand this as well…just so they do it in a respectful way. I did not learn this until I was in my 40’s believe it or not. Why? Because I did not learn it as a child. I was harassed quite a bit by a lot of non-swearing, but just as harmful abusive words.

As humans, we have been made in GOD’s image. We are to relate to each other with the respect this deserves. Yes, it’s true that that image has been marred, but that doesn’t mean we can’t behave in a respectful way toward each other…whether we disagree or not.

Attacking and putting each other down has no place in Christian homes and churches. Sadly, it happens. I know that. But kindness and respect need to describe our relationships with each other. Learning to relate with kindness develops humility. Building each other up takes GOD’s grace. It doesn’t come naturally. But that is part of GOD’s work in us.

Now, I have to pull all this together in a nice neat bow!

In the light of the grace GOD has shown us, we are to relate to fellow Christians with discernment, based on GOD’s Word, not judgement. Our ability to relate to other humans with kindness and in ways that build each other up rather than tear down, can only be done in the power and enablement of the Holy Spirit. Seeing the other person as someone created in the image of GOD enables us to see them in a more respectful way than we might normally and it helps us temper our language…and learn to love them.