Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
barlow_girl and I were rebuked yesterday, absolutely rightly. The amount of courage it must have taken our friend to pull us aside and call us out is stunning, the kind that may only (and in this case, almost certainly did) come from hoping and trusting in the gospel. We're so blessed to be loved that way, by Jesus and by His Body working on His behalf.
In addition to correcting our hearts and actions, my response to our friend's loving confrontation makes me question how much I truly trust Jesus. There's no question I'm not trusting him when I acted as I did, and trusting Him enough to have the courage and love our friend showed us is part of the advanced course—it can only come once I've grappled with the fundamentals. My question arises from how difficult it is to simply receive forgiveness and grace, without having any power whatsoever.
It's not that I don't seek forgiveness (though there's no doubt I don't do so nearly often enough). When I do, however, even this comes from a place of power. I'm seeking it, I'm asking for it. And even though this feels—and is—on some level humbling, I still have power. I'm still the initiator in some respect. And when it comes in conversation or dispute, I'm still actively in it—there's usually no surprise. This time? Stone cold busted, dead to rights. That's different. No power there at all. And with every response I felt in my heart or considered in my mind, I had to ask myself, "Am I trying to regain power in this situation?" Coming clean without laying that down isn't really coming clean—we've needed to struggle with that from the other side for the last year and a half or so, but experiencing it from my own heart is very revealing. Honesty about who I am doesn't come easily.
Correcting my thoughts and actions toward others matters, a lot. After receiving our friend's gracious forgiveness, we talked about how to encourage the good and confront the evil with one another, which is terribly important. By God's Holy Spirit at work through His Church, however, we're both beginning to know deeper sin of our hearts as well. The sin that sets me against God's people is just a symptom of the sin of not believing the gospel, not only in regard them but also in regard to myself. Until I can receive forgiveness and grace from a position of absolute powerlessness, I'm not really and fully receiving it at all.
This is humbling, even shaming, but not soul-crushing. There is hope threaded through God's discipline, a hope that recasts the darkness within in the light of His glory. He is at work in His Church, a work He will complete out of His love for His people. That includes me, intimately.
It also helps me understand the necessity and goodness of His Church, which is so easily attacked, dismissed, ignored, and marginalized by Christian and non-Christian alike. This particular act of God's discipline and mercy simply would not have happened outside of His Church. On my own, I'd likely keep myself in a position of power, such that even receiving forgiveness would have left deeper, blacker sin untouched. In a self-selected community of Christians, it'd probably be the same story. If things were up to me, even in a "Christian" way, I could have dodged this merciful, grace-filled bullet.
God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, through whomever He wants. I believe that thoroughly—so thoroughly, in fact, that I believe Him when He is clear (and He is) that He wants to do this in and through His Church exclusively. I don't pick my team. God does.