Repelling others in the name of Christ

Have you ever heard about the woman who was following the Apostle Paul around and yelling, “Yo, listen up, these guys speak for God and know the way to live forever! Listen up!”

Like the pimped up car with the tinted windows sitting next to me at the light, her “boom, boom, boom” was constant and loud. It turned heads. The cranked sound system starts annoying me after maybe 30 seconds. This girl went on for days.

It sounds to me like she’s really into promoting Paul and the cause of Christ. She’s definitely not ashamed to draw attention to them. She’s vocal and persistent. She’s got a sketchy past but now she definitely seems to be pretty motivated by Paul’s message.

And then something bizarre happens … Paul gets tired of the endless noise and turns to her and shuts her up by casting an evil spirit out of her.

This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. Acts 16:17-18

The account in Acts 16 really isn’t about the girl at all. It’s about corrupt people making money off oppression and then making Paul pay for ruining their business by freeing her.

But, I’m drawn to the girl. Why would an evil spirit push her to keep calling attention to Paul and telling everyone to listen? That doesn’t make sense to me … unless she was actually repelling people by her actions. Maybe that was the case. The whole of Scripture shows us that demons were not in the habit of boldly pestering the Lord’s agents. Or maybe Paul just felt bad for her because of her condition and decided to heal her.

Have you ever met someone who is incredibly vocal, zealous and looks totally committed to Christ but they repel people like classical music repels teenagers? Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting they are possessed. What I am wondering is if we do more harm than good when we take on the role of the obnoxiously vocal girl.

Most of my Christian brothers and sisters who fit this mold wear their “persecution” like a badge and are actually fueled by resistance and objections. When they get no result or face objection they become even louder and more aggressive. Gentleness and respect are far from view. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness … nowhere to be seen as loud voices and passionate pleas ring out.

I cringe when my loud brother steps up to the microphone and I think, “Oh man, what’s coming now?” When that passionate man scolds and wags his finger against whatever the cause for the day, I ask that the Lord might soften his words. I look around the room and see eyes roll and arms fold across chests in defensive postures.

I remember a young woman in one of the groups I directed who presented herself as super spiritual. She wanted more times to pray, more worship and frequently lectured the others about what it meant to be serious about God. She was vocal and passionate and repelling. Others just felt like they didn’t make the grade when she was around. Until a weekend retreat that flipped everything upside down.

As 20 of us spent time away seeking God’s direction, she spent most of the weekend dominating our discussions. But then, one of the young women found lice in her own hair. The super spiritual one flipped. She reacted angrily, called the girl “disgusting” and refused to be in the same room or even ride in a car with the embarrassed girl. While she threw her fit, another young woman who was known for having some visible struggles and making some poor choices, stayed up putting lice treatment in the infected girl’s hair. She then patiently and lovingly combed out dead lice and eggs until the girl was clean. All the while she assured the young woman that it was okay and could happen to anyone. It was very clear who represented Christ that weekend.

The next weekend the super-spiritual girl shared her testimony and went on at length about what it means to love God and love others. Unfortunately, no one could hear her because her actions were still screaming so loudly in their ears. Several girls confronted her after her message but she would not receive them. She was not about to take any advice from anyone who she saw as being lower on the spiritual maturity ladder. She still saw them as far below her.

Repellent. Missing the point of Jesus. Twisting arms. Judging. Pointing fingers. Comparing. How can we be so blind to think that we are calling people to Christ when we see them running for cover when they see us coming?

Jesus didn’t repel. In fact, crowds followed Him. He had to slip away to manage some alone time. He listened to people. He heard them, he called them by name, he ate dinner at their houses. He challenged the status quo religion and invited relationships.

The pharisees were all about lifting themselves up and drawing attention to how holy they were. Jesus didn’t even make their cut.

When the pharisees are happy with me it is time for me to re-evaluate my witness.

About Scott Linscott

Living life to the fullest, walking in the dust of my Rabbi, creating art through photography and written word, speaking words of hope wherever and whenever the opportunity arises.
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