Tag Archives: abuse

Loopholes

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In Christian circles we often talk about legalism or “living under the law” vs. “living under grace”.

Those who have been hurt, but have not fully embraced forgiveness, are often looking for justice. It is understandable from a human perspective. Then there is another side to the equation – those, because of their wrongdoings, who are trying to escape justice and receive mercy, or better yet, grace. That too is an understandable position.

  • Justice is getting what you deserve
  • Mercy is not getting bad things that you deserve (punishment or retribution)
  • Grace is getting good things that you absolutely do not deserve (unearned favor)

I really admire those who search the scriptures diligently so that they can fully follow God in the way they conduct themselves in life and relationships. But there is another way that scriptures can be used as well – as a rationalization to punish, control or avoid. This is where loopholes come into the picture.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a loophole as:

  1. An error in the way a law, rule, or contract is written that makes it possible for some people to legally avoid obeying it.
  2. A means of escape; especially: an ambiguity or omission in the text through which the intent of a statute, contract, or obligation may be evaded.

Are you looking for loopholes in the scripture to justify your wrong desires or behaviors?

In definition #2 above it clearly states that there is an intent in statutes or laws that is to be understood and followed. This is what law abiding or good-hearted people seek to incorporate into their personal life script. (For purposes of this discussion I am not talking about occasions where man’s laws and God’s laws are in conflict).

  • When seeking justice do you ignore the scriptures that call for forgiveness, mercy, turning the other cheek (and many more) in favor of “an eye for an eye”?
  • When trying to justify immoral sexual behaviors do you minutely examine words like “fornication” or “purity” or others hoping that God’s intent for us as Christians has been incorrectly interpreted by the church for centuries?
  • When wanting to blame, shame, criticize or control someone do you quote scriptures that speak about ‘iron sharpening iron” or “faithful are the wounds of a friend” or “confronting sin”? Are you truly concerned for them, or are you really trying to exercise power over them?

The Bible tells us that God is concerned about our hearts out of love for us. When our hearts aren’t right, our lives and our world is not right. Matters of justice are tricky and best left for God to deal with. It is said that we want justice for others, but mercy and grace for ourselves. So, are you most interested in the “letter of the law” or “the intent of the law”?

Loopholes are our way of trying to return power and control to ourselves (leaning on our own understanding) instead of trusting that God’s ways are good.

Xtreme Feelings

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One of the things I like working as a counselor is the ongoing learning that I experience. Not just from books and seminars, but from the process itself, discovering things together with clients as the sessions unfold. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like and rely on my whiteboard. The above whiteboard illustration came during one of these sessions.

We were talking about how extreme feelings produce extreme reactions and usually extremely bad results.  

And often those feelings produce an intense sense of urgency – as if something must be done RIGHT NOW. But urgency causes us to overreact instead of proceeding in a more appropriate and godly manner.

When extreme feelings tempt us we must immediately back away. We are in a relational danger zone and only distance will protect us from potential destruction. In the above mentioned session, I suggested the client should look for alternate explanations when the intense feelings hit rather than accept the first and most feared one. A light came on for the client. He said that in the field of systems analysis and critical thinking, it is called looking for a rival hypothesis. And the solution, he said, is to search for confirming or disconfirming evidence before making a decision or taking action. Wow.

What it requires is slowing down the response and knowing that truth will come in time.

When our emotions get hijacked and the feeling of urgency presses on us, we must assess whether there really is an imminent threat or danger that must be dealt with quickly. In most relationships the answer to that question is almost always “No!” Usually it is a miscommunication or a misinterpretation. I never have bad intentions toward Nan and she never has bad intentions towards me.

So what do Nan and I do when we hit one of those intense rough spots? We get away and calm ourselves down first. We never bring heated anger to the table – never. Then, stripped of blame, we spend time clarifying the issue and if needed, we both own and apologize for our part of the conflict. Clarifying means being willing to listen more than talk. If both people will do that the crisis will pass quickly. Most of our conflicts these days last five minutes or so once we come to the table.

I know some of you are saying “But that seems so hard in the moment.”

Yes, it really is difficult. Much of what is worthwhile in life comes with a price. There is no way to sugar coat it. You must act differently than you feel, because of the benefit that will follow. The rewards are relational harmony and spiritual righteousness.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.