Photo credit: Matthew Paulson
The bulletin board told me Special Presentation was my responsibility that Sunday.
I usually performed a skit, or read a poem, or spoke about something the youth group had been doing. I didn’t have anything prepared when I walked into church that Sunday. I hadn’t even slept the night before.
I’d just returned early from a service trip because my house was broken into. I knew who did it. In fact, he was sitting a couple of pews behind me.
I had just gone through my ransacked bedroom, trying to figure out if anything had been taken. Some of my underwear was gone. I had laid awake all night, afraid he was coming back.
Then, I saw him sitting in the sanctuary like he belonged there. Like he wasn’t a wolf.
All around him, sheep. Sheep who thought they were protecting him from me. Sheep who didn’t really believe in evil because they couldn’t wrap their minds around it.
I cracked a little.
I stood behind the pulpit, opened my Bible to the only verses I could think of, and read aloud.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body… If one part suffers, every part suffers with it..Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13;26-27
I held my Bible high and asked the congregation, “Who here believes this is the word of God?”
A chorus of affirmations.
“Who here believes we should live by the words in this book?”
I flipped to Matthew. I shook as I read on.
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. – Matthew 8:8-9
My point was made. I returned to my pew and sat down.
The choir walked to the front. As they were getting settled, he had the nerve to stand up in front of us all, hold his Bible up and say, “Like Kristy said, this is the word of God…”
I didn’t hear the rest.
I stood up and walked out of the church. I came back after a while and sat down in my pew, but I never really came back.
I was wrong, though.
Oh, I wasn’t wrong about what he was. I wasn’t wrong that the church has a responsibility to oust the wolves and protect the sheep. I wasn’t wrong for feeling hurt and betrayed.
I was wrong to use scripture as a weapon instead of a tool. I walked away and left the sheep to the wolves.
My convictions were correct. My execution was wrong.
I wanted to be protected. I wanted to be valued. But, somehow I became the villain of the story and I wanted to show them all just how wrong and unrighteous they were.
Well, I showed them.
But, it didn’t matter. It didn’t change anything.
All they saw was a girl stirring up trouble and dissension. It was easier if I was the monster. If I was the monster, then nobody had to do anything. Nobody had to face judgment. Nobody had to be accountable for the attitudes and actions that allowed this to happen.
Attacking someone with scripture… what good Christian girl would do that?
I made a bad decision and it fed into what they wanted to believe about me. I was the problem. I was the one making them choose a side. I was the one who wouldn’t just sweep everything under the rug and play nice.
Maybe if I hadn’t been so blinded with what I felt was righteous indignation another verse would have popped into my head instead.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21
I fought evil with evil because I didn’t believe that “good” was strong enough. I walked away because it was too painful to stand and fight.
But, I’m not a scared eighteen-year-old girl. I’m not shaking anymore.
I won’t fight evil with evil, but I’ll fight.
I’ll fight with love.
I’ll fight with truth.
I’ll fight with humility.
I’ll fight with empathy.
I’ll fight against myself when vengeance looks too tempting.
The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury. – Marcus Aurelius
I won’t hide away and remain silent so you don’t have to face the consequences of your callousness. I won’t quietly watch you rip lives open. I won’t twist scripture so it suits my goals. I won’t pull out bits and pieces to lob like stones at people I don’t like…or I disagree with…or who make me uncomfortable.
Because that’s what you do…and I’m not like you.