Let us pray: Dear Savior, every one of us either does or says hurtful things. Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that no one but ourselves is hurt by it all, too. And yet, when we hurt ourselves we’re actually hurting You and all our loved ones, as well. Today, impress that truth upon us and then turn our hearts toward Your loving embrace born of forgiveness. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO LOVES US IN SPITE OF OURSELVES!
TEXT: Ephesians 4: 30—5:2
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
I was awakened one night in the hospital by a loud conversation between the nurse and an elderly lady across the hall who also had undergone heart surgery. Apparently she was confused as to where she was and had tried to pull out her IV, get up, and leave her bed. She was agitated and the kind nurse tried to explain again and again to her that she was only going to hurt herself if she kept it up. It was very sad. But then, self-destructive behavior always is. I was just thankful that her son, who had been with her in the surgery prep room next to me before her procedure, wasn’t there that night. I could overhear their conversation when the nurses were getting her ready and it was obvious her son loved her dearly. If he had seen his mother’s pained confusion that night, it would have stabbed his heart.
I recall working with a person many, many years ago who would pierce their skin with safety pins and then leave them in place throughout the day. That person was in emotional/spiritual pain and feeling physical pain somehow was their coping mechanism. They would wear long sleeves to hide it all from their loved ones. Yes, self-destructive behavior comes in many, many forms.
Adam and Eve engaged in self-destructive behavior when they disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit. All subsequent personal hurts stem from their sin. Can you imagine how they must have felt when their son, Cain, killed his brother, Abel? Can you imagine them seeing Cain spiral downward in hatred until it finally spilled over—knowing that their behavior had been the genesis of it all? Today, I want to talk to you about how:
SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR ALWAYS HURTS LOVED ONES
We often think that we can do anything to ourselves—as long as we don’t hurt someone else in the process. That concept is basically how all laws governing human conduct are written and enforced, aren’t they? It’s the old: “But I’m not hurting anyone” defense. But, such thinking is wrong, dead wrong. Listen to God’s inspired word on the matter: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
The alcoholic may think that their drinking, let’s call it self-destructive behavior, isn’t hurting anyone but themselves. But doesn’t the family, those who love that person, see it, grieve over it, and are hurt by it, too? Since we don’t live in a vacuum, the same goes for the heroin user, the gambling addict, and the spiteful gossip. The word “malice” used here means: evil. Harboring a bitter heart about some past hurt, letting your temper take over your life, and being so embittered about something that you find forgiveness impossible to think about, say, or do—that’s all included under the heading: self-destructive behavior. All of it hurts the heart and soul of the one employing it. All of it is employed by them to mask their inner pain of sin. And all of it always hurts their loved ones who have to witness and endure the downward spiral that it brings. Every one of us here today has seen this occur, has been a direct recipient of it, and has also engaged in such behavior. We’re all guilty of self-destructive behavior. Moreover, according to St. Paul, such sin “grieves the Spirit, and spits on Christ’s kind heart.
Knowing and inwardly confessing that you have a problem in this regard is the first step toward finding a solution. And thanks be to God!—He actually comes and gives to us the solution so that we don’t have to wander about aimlessly and have our frustration build and build into more self-destruction! That’s where God’s Son, Jesus, comes into play. Listen again to our lesson: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loves us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Love here means: unconditional love. That’s how God loves you. God never says: “I won’t love you unless and until you prove yourself to Me.” He doesn’t say: “I won’t love you unless and until you act just right for 6 months or a year and then I can trust you.” If that was the case we’d all be sunk, cut off from His love and forgiveness forever. No, as Paul says elsewhere: “When we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we were and still are sinners, who engage in self-destructive behavior, Christ poured out His blood on the cross to make us right with God and then to provide us a solution to our downward death spiral.—That’s real love, that’s Godly love.
Now St. Paul is telling his beloved Ephesians: “Since you know all this—follow God’s example and walk in His way of love. This is a better way to live. This is what God created you for. So, keep working on curbing your self-destructiveness! Focus on His forgiveness for all your sins and the inner pain they bring and the outward manifestations of it will begin to cease! That’s the amazing power of God’s love. That’s amazing grace!” Amen