But is that always the case? Am I applying a section of scripture to a situation to which it has no relationship? Am I using a passage of scripture to make myself feel better about the actions that I'm going to take, to justify it to myself and others? Am I manipulating the Lord's words to promote my own agenda in the name of the Lord?
I wonder this regarding many things. Passages like "The Lord will fulfill His promises" in relationship to my relationship status. Did He promise that I would be happily married by 32? Um, no - and since that's just 6 weeks away, it's highly unlikely that it will happen. The Groundhog's Shadow this week didn't predict "Katie's husband arrives in 6 weeks" (at least that wasn't the story as I read it). Or "I know the plans I have for you, for your good, not your harm" in relationship to getting a promotion and raise at work. Could God be talking about prospering here on earth? Yes, of course he could. Is He? Maybe.
Ultimately the promise is eternal life if we follow Him. That's all we are guaranteed. Well, that's actually not true. We're also guaranteed suffering. We live in a broken world and are guaranteed to suffer either physically, emotionally, mentally, or all three., anytime, anywhere If we embrace that and use it for the glory of God, then we have a chance at eternal life with Him.
This all comes to me this evening because I received an email from someone who could only be called an acquaintance outlining all of the ways I am a detriment to the young adult program at my parish and all the parishes in Charlotte. How this person used to be like me but now has seen the light so is now a humble person, always joyful, and a light for all people. Okay, maybe that last phrase was a little much. The entire letter almost 1200 words and began with a paragraph justifying its sending with a quote from scripture. This morning in prayer, they were reading 2 Thessalonians 3, verse 11 and it compelled them. What does that verse say? Basically anyone not minding their own business is to be ignored so as to be put to shame and admonished as a brother. Basically given fraternal correction.
Now I'm going to pretend that I love fraternal correction, who does? I don't welcome it or invite it openly; however, I have received it and I have also given it. I believe there are a few important points to take into consideration when you feel fraternal correction is necessary. First, it should be done charitably so as to prevent the person from feeling condemned but rather invited to an interior conviction to change their ways. They should feel enlightened, encouraged, and loved as they evaluate their wrong actions and make a change for the future. Second, it should not be given in an emotional state or to satisfy the other person's desire to say "I know better than you so listen to me." It should not be about the person giving it at all actually. Done in a neutral manner so that it is a benefit to the entire community and the salvation of the person receiving it. Third, it should not include comparisons to other people. The correction should be based on things that can be observed by more than one person, typically more of a systemic program rather than an isolated event, depending on the event. Fourth, it should be given by someone the person trusts and has a relationship with otherwise, it will be seen as a vendetta against the person. Fraternal Correction is not about condemnation or self-seeking, it is about helping your brother or sister grow in their relationship with the Lord and hopefully help them see their own blindness so as to establish a life-long change in them.
The email I received from an acquaintance did not include any of these things. It would have been delivered better in person by someone I trust, not someone who I've seen 10 times in 4 years, especially since it concerns something larger than just an interaction between the two of us. If this person feels that I am a detriment to the program I am helping to lead, that it was almost dead, but our event this weekend seems to have revived it, then they should speak with the person who is actually in charge of the program, my pastor.
I've received correction in the past and have never feel demeaned, diminished, demoralized, despised, or dejected like I did today. I have felt emotionally drained - but that's because it's hard to acknowledge our imperfections and where we need to grow, especially if we, ourselves, haven't seen that area of weakness before during self evaluation. Today I felt all five of those "d" words - which as a wise woman told me years ago are from the devil. Citing Scripture as the motivation for ripping someone apart will never sit well with me. I think it's a cop out for not taking responsibility for yelling and screaming. I also believe keeping a tally of events for years just to pull them out all together is demeaning. Two sentences before you cited Scripture to explain why you were writing these "correcting" things - but you don't seem to have read an earlier part of the same book where it talks about forgiveness.
I haven't decided if I'm going to respond to this person yet. I believe I will have a conversation with my Pastor before doing so since it seems to affect all of the people around me in the ministry I help lead. I want something to work for young adults so badly because I want a group to belong to at my parish. I want to feel like I fit somewhere. I love my friends but we are in such different times of our life that I need some single friends too. I thought this group would be where I would find them, but I have been proven wrong. A few people there seem (according to this letter) to just put up with me, while the rest come once and never return because of me. Is that true? I really don't know, but I hope not.
If I replied today it would be something uncharitable and spiteful. I don't believe anything I could say would change their mind about why they emailed me in this way, like it was their good deed for the day. It wasn't. I can only pray that the Lord will use this experience to help me grow, that's all I can possibly ask for, as with everything. Whatever nuggets of truth are in there, let them shine through so I can bring them to reflection. Hopefully it will not deter me from continuing along the path the Lord has in store, whatever that actually is. Because my first reaction is to think the following thoughts: "I'm the reason this group isn't growing, why no young adult group I've ever been part of has ever grown", "There really is something wrong with me, that's why I'm single, feel lonely, and don't ever accomplish anything", and "I should just give up serving because no one wants me around anyway."
I will believe that none of these thoughts were this person's intention because a wise priest taught me years ago to "presume good will." I try (although I don't always succeed) to set aside what I think their intentions are and presume they intended good, even if it was misguided or to see the wider situation and how there could be many things affecting this person's behavior. I pray that is the case with this letter writer.