Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Cutting Off

Jesus said, "Father forgive these people because they don't know what they are doing."  Luke 23:34a

Habiba, a follower of Jesus, gave a gift to her Muslim friend, Amal, but she was not impressed with it and never bothered to thank her for it. As a result Habiba felt hurt and angry so she cut her off completely. No more communication. No more contact of any sort. The former friend did not exist anymore in Habiba’s thoughts. Dead. Expired. It seemed so abrupt, harsh, unforgiving and punitive. Like a curse. Some women cut up pictures so there will be no more memories of the one who hurt them.

Fatima was broken and crushed in her spirit by her husband always giving his first wife preferential treatment sexually and financially. One day she said, "He is expired." "You mean, he died?" I inquired. "I am a widow," she stated flatly. I knew he had not physically died rather she pronounced him dead in her mind and heart. Cut him off. It was the only way she knew how to manage her pain and shame. "I am fine now," she said.

This response of cutting off from a person was totally baffling to me in the beginning of ministry. Being hurt or insulted I could understand but what was this sudden expiration of a person? I dreaded the possibility of ever being on the receiving end of being cut off. There would be no talking anything out or trying to be understood. But finally the dreaded day came when a lady I cared about deeply abruptly cut me off completely. No permission to see her, visit her, no messages returned. I had expired in her mind.  I continued to send her birthday cards. Then I heard from a family member she always threw them in the garbage without opening them. However, I decided to keep on sending her birthday cards. Today, after many years of her cutting me off, she has started being friendly and open, although with reservation.

I wish I could say that as soon as a woman decides to follow Jesus this common response of cutting people off who hurt them disappears. It doesn't. It is hard for them to understand what grace and forgiveness means, the Jesus way. It is new teaching. "I have forgiven her, Joy. I don't have anything to do with her. I am okay now." She has forgiven the Muslim way but not the Jesus way. The grace of Jesus leaves the door open for Him to walk in and do something new. A relationship does not have to expire. No one has to be cursed living the Jesus way. "Well, I forgave my husband. I wish he would die. I put him in God's hands to punish," Nadia relayed angrily to me. Forgiveness to them often means that they won't do the punishing themselves, but hatred can remain.

Listening to stories of people's hurts and cutting them off weary me. I have heard many of them of late. They sound so cursive. And they are.  Some are stories from Muslims and some are from former Muslims who have decided to follow Jesus. When it comes to the believers I find it is beneficial to teach about this cutting off response to hurt early in discipleship; preferably before a situation has arisen. It is important to help them to understand from Scriptures that cutting off is not the Jesus way but a cultural way she grew up with and should not be carried on if we call ourselves followers of Jesus. New ways of dealing with insults and hurts must be learned from Jesus. It is important to teach about forgiveness and grace and share specific practical ways how to deal with hurt. Helpful teaching verses are Romans 12: 17-21. Habiba needs to realize that she doesn’t have to be conquered by evil but can conquer evil with good. Every once in awhile I witness a desire in them to figure out grace and put it into practice. Now that is beautiful!

Dear heavenly Father, thank You that instead of cutting us off because we have hurt You by our words and actions, You have extended grace and mercy to us through the sacrificial life of Jesus. In His wonderful name, Amen.