Gilbert Kerrigan, Senior Minister
I heard someone recently say, “Hurt people hurt people.” In other words, people who are emotionally hurting often act in such ways that hurts other people. Psychologists would say that when hurt people do this to others they are essentially trying to deflect their pain onto others. Often times they may not even be aware that they are doing this.
This is one of the reasons why a legalistic approach to Christianity can be so dangerous. Legalism neglects the inside. Legalism neglects the heart.
Doesn’t Jesus say this very thing? He tells the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matt. 5:25). And then just two verses later, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (5:27).
On another occasion Jesus finds himself in a discussion about spiritual cleanliness and defilement. His opponents are entirely focused on the externals – what you can and can’t eat. He finally says to them, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mk. 7:20-23).
Neither one of these examples have anything to do with emotionally hurt people hurting other people, but I really believe these passages are relevant. At the core we are talking about being controlled by what is inside us. It is the battle taking place inside of us that Paul talks about in Galatians 5. He says that the Holy Spirit and our inner selves (various translations say flesh, sinful desires, old nature, etc…) are in constant conflict inside us. They are at battle deep inside of us, so that whatever flows from the inside outside of us will be of the Holy Spirit.
Until we as a church learn to deal with the whole person, inside and out, we will have, as one person put it, “congregations filled with people who are spiritually gifted but act like emotional infants.” Perhaps this is why Paul tells the Thessalonians, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:23). Did you catch that? “Your whole spirit, soul and body…”
For the most part, the church does a pretty good job of attending to the spiritual needs of others. We are also very aware of and sympathetic to the physical needs of others. A majority of our prayers are focused on physical needs. It is the emotional needs that often get neglected, perhaps because they are often the most difficult needs to address.
Often times addressing the emotional needs starts with self awareness. This means I have to become aware of what is inside myself (pain, anger, shame, betrayal, fear, etc.). Once I have become aware of what is inside, I must then acknowledge it and be willing to address it. We must then be willing to bring it before the Lord and let Him work through it.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” ~ Psalm 139:23-24