“Avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” 2 Timothy 2:16–17
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” 1 Peter 2:1
Hearts That Condemn
I received a text message from a young woman the other morning asking for time to talk. Initially, I thought this woman wanted something like encouragement, advice, or prayer.
The house was chaotic that day (to put it lightly), and she arrived as I had just finished getting the children situated. We sat down and she began by telling me a little bit about herself and family. Quickly though, she got into the real reason she was there to speak with me: she wanted to repent to me. She explained how, since the first time we met, she has regularly judged and critiqued me for the past three years. She noticed that I ask others in our church body for help, and she resented me for being, in her perception, weak. In a response (of telling herself she was “strong”), she refused help from others, even those in her own Community Group. She confessed those thoughts to be sinful and wrong.
Hearts That Covet
This is not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, I can name three other women off the top of my head who have come to repent of sin to me, ironically, of the opposite attitude within the past month. They all admitted to being intimidated by me and were afraid to talk to me because they thought I have it “all together.” They compared their life to what they perceived in mine and their dissatisfaction led to covet rather than repent.
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:22–26
Hearts in Sin
One woman says, “I hate you because I see that you don’t have it all together,” while at the same moment another woman says, “I hate you because you seem to have it all together.” They’re looking at the same woman and having polar opposite reactions. Both attitudes are sinful.
Neither attitude held by these women was one that was seeking to honestly know or understand me. Both attitudes, in sin, aren’t ones that show these women were looking to the Spirit for direction and wisdom. Both attitudes lived only in their minds as they have conservations with themselves about other people, instead of going to their sister (me) to address what they were feeling.
Both attitudes reveal a struggle with their own identity issues. Neither one is rooted in Jesus. Neither one has a heart of compassion. Neither one reaches out. Neither one loves.
The Spirit poured out his grace in these conversations, allowing me to receive these women with love. I was able to forgive them without hesitation, not only because I’ve been forgiven much through Jesus, but because I know my own heart is prone to sin. All these women rightly repented and received the joy that follows, recognizing that apart from Jesus our flesh will ruin us.
Hearts That Care
But the day wasn’t over yet.
This same day, a single young woman in my Community Group, knowing I’ve been quite nauseous with this new pregnancy and a bit overwhelmed with life in the past few weeks, had offered her time to serve my children and me—and today, of all days, was the day she was coming over.
I met her at the door and the first question I asked her was whether or not she had a desire to someday be a mother. She said that yes, she in fact did, and then gave me a quizzical look that begged the question as to why I was asking. I smiled and said that if she was on the fence at all about motherhood, then helping me on this particular day might push her over the edge into not wanting children!
“. . . That there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” 1 Corinthians 12:25
While my kids were fighting at our feet over their toys, I quickly gave her the rundown of the vomit and the overflowing kitchen sink. Before I could even finish speaking, she was pulling her hair up into a ponytail to jump in and get started with cleaning up a mess no one other than a mother should be required to clean. She could have turned around and walked out, and I certainly wouldn’t have blamed her.
But instead, she worked and helped with a love and a joy that only the Spirit can provide as she vacuumed, did laundry, washed dishes, played with my children while I went to the grocery, took the older two to the park while I talked with the other woman, and stayed until late in the afternoon with no hurry to move on. She asked for nothing in return as she simply gave up her own day to be with me during mine.
She is a picture to me of Jesus. She ministered to my heart and brought comfort to a day that, at first glance, did not have any. The only attitude she had toward me was a willingness to jump in, help, pursue, and serve. Rather than live in her head, she worked with her hands.
Hearts That Love the Church—and Each Other—like Jesus
As women, wives, and mothers, we have great, yet weighty, God-given responsibilities: We care first for our own souls as we spend time in the Word and draw near to Jesus. We then love our husbands if we’re married as we serve, honor, care for, and respect them. We then look after our children as we daily die to ourselves and give up our lives for them. We do so, though, with the intent to bring glory only to one, who is Jesus.
As we enter this new sermon series, Jesus Loves His Church, I pray for the women of Mars Hill. I pray we will not judge or critique those in the body, as well as those placed in leadership, for it undermines and brings separation and destruction. I pray we will not covet for it only brings about division and disunity. I pray the Spirit brings conviction and grants repentance to those who criticize or compare. I pray for those crippled by the criticism and coveting of others to repent of fearing man, so we can fear God alone.
I pray for grace to use our time, talent, and treasure to the fullest of our abilities to build up rather than tear down those in the church. We cannot afford to become distracted by others. We cannot waste a second of our time critiquing or coveting. And certainly there is not time to fret about what others may think of us. Instead of arrogantly looking to the church to find significance as we use criticism and covetousness to love and serve ourselves, let’s humbly look to the church to find our worth rooted in Jesus as we love, serve, and comfort one another.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29–32
Meg Wallace is married to Matt, the executive pastor of Mars Hill Albuquerque.