She watched the abuse and did nothing.
What would you think of such a person? What would you tell someone who stood by as another was attacked, and didn’t lift a finger? How would you react to a person who didn’t even speak a word in someone else’s defense?
Well, I am that person.
The attack was not physical. Much worse. It was emotional. An attack with words. Only one word, actually. And I did nothing. None of us did. Others were there, too, and whether we agreed or not, our silence made us reinforcements.
Say nothing. Do nothing. Move on. That’s what I did. As far as I know, that’s what we all did.
And it haunted me.
Part of me felt compelled to reach out to the victim, to see what damage may have been done. Perhaps to apologize for the word, or at least for not coming to her rescue. But, part of me just wanted to leave it alone. And that’s what I did. For weeks. Because I enjoyed the outcome. That one word strike resulted in circumstances that made me more comfortable, and apparently I was more concerned with my comfort than I was with her heart.
It reminded me a lot of a story I had read.
Then, they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Mark 10:46-48, NIV
And another story.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. Mark 10:13, NIV
While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages, and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. Mark 14:3-4, NIV
People tried to draw near to Jesus the only way they knew how, and they were rebuked.
So many stories of so-called religious people trying to keep others away from Jesus. Others who were disruptive and made too much noise. Others who weren’t mature enough. Others who worshipped differently. The “religious” people rebuked them when they tried to press in to Jesus. They stepped in to shield Jesus from the undesirables.
The so-called religious made themselves a barrier between the marginalized and the Master.
It seems that the ones who were closest to Jesus during His earthly ministry were often the ones most adamant about keeping others away from Him. When they weren’t keeping them at bay, they voiced their objections to the “sinners” who sought the Savior, thinking themselves so much more deserving of a place near Jesus. As much as I would like to see myself as the seeker, the one pressing in to be near Him, I’m afraid I’m more often like the ones who believed themselves to be Jesus’ protectors. The ones who preferred to keep their little group comfortable and familiar by excluding anyone who did things differently.
I was no different than those so-called religious leaders. This woman who was struck by a word had a chance to get to know Jesus better in our group, but because she did things a little differently, it was easier to keep the group the way it used to be. The way it was before she made her appearance.
After that word was spoken, our group did return to the way we had been, because she wasn’t there anymore. But, what if I had intervened? What if I had reached out on her behalf? What if I hadn’t been one of those barrier-makers?
For weeks I faced the ugly fact that I was unconcerned about her; or at least I was less concerned about her than I was about my own comfort. For weeks I faced the reality that I was, in my own way, keeping her from Jesus. I had been a judgmental, pharisaic, prideful person. Arrogant. Intolerant. Impatient. Unkind. Stubborn. Self-seeking. Worst of all, I wasn’t willing to do anything about it.
I was unrepentant.
It was the very condition the Holy Spirit had begun to speak to me about during my spiritual detox. The unpacking of my backpack.
An Unrepentant Heart.
Unrepentant / Amentanoetos: admitting no change of mind; impenitent. Inflexible. Not be to concerned after an act has been committed. Coming from the Greek word Metanoeo, meaning: to think differently afterwards, to reconsider, implying the feeling of regret and sorrow.
Heart / Kardia: thoughts or feelings, mind, in the sense of conscience; of the will and character.
But hadn’t I asked God’s forgiveness? Hadn’t I repented? What about my prayers asking God to “forgive me where I have failed” Him? Wasn’t that repentance? Hardly. It was nothing more than an attempt to salve my guilty conscience. Sorry, God, that I fouled that up on such a colossal scale, even though I’m quite pleased with the outcome. I’ll do better next time.
No such luck; I couldn’t get past this time. I couldn’t get past this particular incident. I couldn’t get past the fact that I was unwilling to repent.
I had an unrepentant heart.
I had determined not to change my mind or my feelings about what happened. I was unwilling to be flexible, to bend my way of thinking and doing things. I was unconcerned. I may as well have spoken a rebuke myself, when she was probably just trying to press in to Jesus the only way she knew how.
If I wanted this remedied, I had to do two things. I had to understand what needed to be fixed, and I had to get it fixed. I needed a better understanding of repentance.
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19, NLT
Repent / Metanoeo: Change my mind, change the inner man (particularly with reference to the will of God). Literally, “think differently afterwards”, i.e. conduct worthy of a heart changed and abhorring sin.
Conduct changed. That was going to require more than asking God’s forgiveness. It was going to require action. An attempt to make things right.
I didn’t know how to fix it. I couldn’t change what had been done. But I knew Who could change my heart and make something good of this. I had to ask God to remove the toxin. To unpack my backpack and remove the unrepentance from my heart.
God, I come to you broken because of what I have done. Because of what I have allowed to continue. I am broken because You have shown me how I am keeping someone from You so I might be more comfortable and feel better about myself. What I’ve been doing is wrong and I see how it grieves Your Spirit. Forgive me and purify me from this and all my unrighteousness. I confess the sin of my unrepentant heart, and You promise You are faithful to forgive and to purify me. Begin the purification process now, Father. Make me holy and blameless in Your sight.
Then, I had to take action following my prayer. I had to reach out to her. I had to break the barrier I had helped build.
I did reach out, and to my surprise discovered that her absence had been unrelated to the one-word attack. Apparently God had come to her rescue to shield her heart from harm, when everyone else in the room had been unwilling to do so. She came back. Her heart had come away unscathed, and my heart came away changed. Made repentant. Not because of anything good in me, but because of God’s grace and His unrelenting love for both the ones trying to press in, and the ones who try to stand in the way
Note: This post is Part Three of My Big Fat Greek Word Search – a series about the removal of spiritual toxins, or an unpacking of my spiritual backpack. To see previous posts, follow these links: