In his book, Friedman’s Fables, the author uses shocking imagery to tell stories of hard truth. In one tale, he describes two men walking towards each other on a bridge, one carrying a rope. The man with the rope ties it around himself and hands the slack to the other man before jumping over the bridge. The man on the bridge calls down to the bridge-jumper and says, “Pull from your end and I will pull from mine, and we will get you out of this.” The dangling man say, “No. I am entirely in your hands.” The man says he cannot physically hold onto him much longer so they both need to make an effort. He refuses, to which the first man replies, “I accept your choice,” and releases the rope.
A similar situation in the news…
Would you let go of the rope if the person were simply hung-up on gossip, refusing to stop? You might if you truly cared about that person’s best interest. Surprised? Here is a recent example. A respected church is embroiled over one member’s repeated personal attacks and gossip. What is the proper response to an unending pattern of abuse? Actually, this church has an official process for this kind of issue. Its heritage goes back to Scotland through centuries of well-ordered management. The U.S. government’s division of powers is modeled after its system. It is transparent and representative in the way it operates, which means working through official channels rather than the unofficial kind.
When someone has a personal agenda, they can be tempted to manipulate the system, or to tear down leaders, questioning their competence and integrity. An even darker temptation is to start misrepresenting motives and spreading falsehood.
Allegedly, this church has been dealing with all these behaviors. After many attempts and seasons of counsel and mediation, the leaders have decided to excommunicate this member.
What would you do?
Having no direct knowledge of this situation, let us assume all the accusations and attempts to reconcile are accurate, and the member has not budged. People in their community are still asking, “Is it right to cut her off from the church? Does Jesus not say to persevere in forgiveness, “seventy times seven?” In other words, is the church not supposed to be a place for people like her?
Consider the opposite question: If this woman is guilty as charged, and if she continues to poison others and herself with this venom, where is the compassion in letting that continue? Forgiveness is not an excuse to cop-out or avoid dealing with abusive people, even holding them accountable. We know for ourselves that consequence is a good teacher, and sometimes the only way we become motivated to change.
At times, love must indeed be tough. If you step in front of someone running towards a cliff, you are going to take a hit…and give a hit. Real love is willing. We need both grace and truth, compassion and boundaries. Not everyone gets this until faced with the experience, but sometimes grace is the boundary.
Have you ever been confronted with an unwelcome hard-edge of truth only to realize you received just what you needed? Tell us about it.