There is an old saying that Christians are the only group that “shoots its own wounded” (metaphorically speaking). I cannot speak to the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of this particular statement, but the reality of the origin of this statement lends itself to, at the very basic level, a general statement which contains some elements of truth.
There certainly are no shortage of pundits who gleefully express their musings about this particular subject (Google this statement and prepare to be amazed), and to be clear, let us not enter into a matter of semantics with regards to the context. At the heart of the matter is the very real act of Christian brothers and sisters who are, on any given day, dishing out or receiving hateful criticism within their very own. The unfortunate reality of such incidents usually results in broken friendships, distrust, alienation, splits from congregations, and in some instances, unabashed hatred. The real question isn’t “does this really happen” but rather “why this happens?”
If I wanted to be short and concise I could simply state that Christians, while having a new nature/heart indwelt by the Holy Spirit, still face battles with the flesh. Battles that lead us down roads that we don’t want to go down, into arenas of life that we thought might have been left behind in our old sinful state. It is in these battles where our old sinful self tries to make a revival. Paul speaks of these personal battles in Romans 7:15-21. Within the confines of these battles Christians can, and do bring pain and hurt to other Christians.
It is on this point that it must be said; Christians can and will offend you and hurt your feelings! To ignore that fact, or to paint a picture in your mind of a Christian who can’t offend is quite unrealistic. You may say; “that is how a Christian should be, or they should be a reflection of Christ” and you wouldn’t be wrong. But friends, short of this side of heaven, this ideal that a Christian is perfect, is simply that, an ideal! Yes, as Christians we strive to be in the image of our Lord, that is what the theologian would call ‘sanctification’. But this is a life-long process where completion occurs only when we are called to be with the Lord, or He comes back first, either way, we don’t realize a completion of it, only our Lord Jesus does.
At this point the question turns on a hinge, it’s not a matter anymore of “why”, instead the absolute question then is “what we do with this hurt that our fellow brother or sister has given us?” Let me offer up just a few conclusions;
I find it interesting that Jesus puts the onus on the one who has been grieved to seek reconciliation with those who have doled out the grief. Matthew 5:22-25 leaves no room for lingering anger, and just in case you thought that may be a one off, please do not forget Jesus’ response to Peter in Matthew 18:22. Peter thought he might have been playing it smart when he suggested that to forgive his brother seven times far outweighed the ancient Judaism custom of offering forgiveness just three times. Instead Jesus’ reply is not seven, but seventy times seven.
In the final analysis, we live in a world that specializes in division and hostility, but yet, the Christian man and woman still tries to reach into this world, to befriend it, to bring it to the altar of our Lord Jesus, to find peace and healing. Let us stop attacking our own, we are not called to be imitators of the world, we are called to be imitators of Jesus Christ!