Green Rocks

A little girl was walking with her parents across the beach. While her family strolled along the sand, the adventurous little girl loved to climb on the rocks. Aware of the dangers, her father cried out “Darling, be careful! Don’t walk on the green rocks”. He knew that if his young daughter avoided the green slippery rocks, she wouldn’t fall and hurt herself. It was sound advice for sure, but not heeded. Slipping on seaweed, the girl tumbled down and went home with a scar and a sore head.

I don’t know about you but I have found that certain people have been “green rocks” in my life – those who have discouraged or hurt me, leaving me sore. While many will enter 2008 making a commendable fresh commitment to get on with people better, for some an active decision to avoid certain individuals might be the best New Year’s resolution they can make.

While this may not sound very gracious or even Christian, let us be careful to note the heavenly opinion. We must certainly not ignore the great commandment to “love our neighbour”, but it is just as biblical to consider some people to be a little dangerous. Paul certainly thought so when he wrote, “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33); while Solomon warned his readers that, “a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20). I have come to this conviction: to “love our neighbour” doesn’t always mean we have to move next door.

There is a lot of pain in the church. Altar calls brim over with genuine believers hurting over their green rock encounters. Now thank God for the healing Jesus, who “binds up the broken hearted.” Christ can take away the scar of emotional pain. But how much simpler it would all be if we just avoided those green rocks to begin with. The Holy Spirit says that above all else, we must guard our heart (Proverbs 4:23). I’ll take emotional health over healing any day.

I think Scripture may identity at least three kinds of green rocks. Firstly, we have fake Christians – those who say all the right things on a Sunday but live like the devil on Monday. Hypocrites were the only group of people who made Jesus angry. Paul was pretty harsh with them too (1 Corinthians 5:11). Hypocrite is an old word meaning “actor”. Don’t spend quality time with Christian “actors” in 2008. They’re not real and they’ll want you to join their profession.

Then there are worldly people. Of course, Jesus was the friend of “tax collectors and sinners” and so should we be. Joining the darts team might be better than housegroup for a season if it means we win souls. But it is all about balance. To avoid being “unequally yoked” is not just a verse for hormonal teenagers. We must all choose to hang around (where possible) with people firmly going in God’s direction, while declining any strong connections with those driving quickly on the other side of the spiritual motorway.

People with a critical spirit are often green rocks to me too. When I was at Mattersey College, there was an extremely cynical student living in a certain corridor for three years. One by one, each of his fellow students found a reason to move rooms and get away. It didn’t matter that their new window view was of a brick wall or that they got the room next to the toilet. They understood that negativity sticks stronger than the foulest odour.

Every church has its encouraging Barnabas, but there is normally a doubting Thomas or two as well. Love them, but don’t be discipled by them. If your best friend is Brother Gloom, the demon of Victor Meldrew may land on you too. Remember David’s brothers (1 Samuel 17:28); the Ten Spies (Numbers 13:31-33) and Michal (2 Samuel 6:16). Each were made barren by their negativity. Critical people are often the worst kind of ‘yeast’ because their influence is rarely challenged. Some have been working as satanic missionaries in our churches for years.

Now I realise that readers of good conscience will be quite unsettled by all this talk of avoiding certain people. Whatever happened to love and mercy? Aren’t we supposed to forgive and forget? The story of an enthusiastic “pacing preacher” may help illustrate a truth. One day, in his fervour, he kicked one of the church members, sitting on the front row, while preaching. The dear saint screamed in pain but, ever devout, quickly forgave the preacher for this accident. However, in the next service, she was no longer to be found on the front row, but rather the third row, where no further harm could come to her! For sure, the Bible does not allow us to turn emotional pain into a grudge of bitterness. That’s sin. But I think it does allow us to live and learn. It might be time to move seats this year. Iron sharpens iron. Be whole, not healed. Avoid the green rocks.

JOY Magazine, January 2008

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