Proverbs 24:16 “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.”

     Have you ever been in a ‘conversation’ where you felt you were on trial?  You become defensive and anything you say seems to be taken as proof of your shortcomings.  You end up feeling like nothing you could say will help because you were found guilty and talking it over just makes it worse.  This is the kind of discussion I had with a relative the other day.   His call was as unpleasant as it was unexpected.  The entire substance of the conversation was about placing unreasonable demands upon me that I should comply with because if I didn’t I wasn’t a good Christian.

     I took a pounding until I finally lost patience and said something very uncharitable using some very nasty words.  I lived up to his expectations.  Afterwards I felt very terrible about the whole conversation.  I just didn’t expect that kind of an attack from some one that close to me.  That being said I make no excuse with loosing my temper and becoming exasperated.  I’m supposed to be an ambassador for Jesus (Eph 6:20) and I failed!  For that I am truly sorry.

     What happened?   I had been stuffed into a ‘strawman’ and set on fire.  Marc Dohle describes the way strawmen come into being; “There are no straw men in this world, though they are often created when talking about ‘others’, or when those ‘others’ talk about me or just Christians in general. Straw men are often constructed from the failures of any said group.”  Sadly, this is a common practice I’ve experienced before in my profession as a teacher.  All the shortcomings that a person remembers or heard about are bundled up into one fictitious ‘bad teacher’  and used to prove the guilt of and condemn the entire profession!

     What is particularly galling is that I’ve done the very same thing myself.  Now I know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of it.  In the article – When Christians Fail, the Marc Dohle points out; “I have been made into a straw man more times than I can count and have also been guilty of the same thing when dealing with those who think and believe differently from me. So yes, I am often judged by the worst of those who call themselves Christians, and yes I can be at times a member of that club, showing bad example. I can be a Pharisee along with the best of them. I am a sinner, I fail, but I can get up and start anew.”

     Few statements are as hard to take as being called a hypocrite.  They’re harder to take when the accusation comes from someone you wouldn’t expect it from.   It’s true – I can fail.  I can be badgered into hypocrisy – I can loose my temper and say nasty things.  It still hurts.  However as the article, “When Christians Fail” points out; ” Failure is not hypocrisy, hiding it and then demanding that others be perfect, is. If we truly understood ourselves better, I doubt any of us would ever be shocked by what others do….’there but for the grace of God go I’ ”.

     Last night in Bible study a person pointed out that we need to listen  to our Advocate and not to our accuser(s).  What is it about defeat and his messengers that makes us listen to lies and bend to straw men?  Could it be the hot buttons of  guilt, fear and shame pushing us to listen?  Scripture tells us our King and advocate has beaten the accuser; “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.”  (Rev. 12:10)

     So, although I fell,  I’m getting up again.  I failed.  I know why.  I have confessed and repented.  It’s not who I am;  “Anyone who believes in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone! The new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17)   I will conclude with my favourite prayer from scripture (Psalm 51:10,11,12). . .

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
     Praise the Lord!