Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
- Colossians 3:22-25
All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.
- 1 Timothy 6:1-2
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
- C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
Have you ever had a really bad boss? I have had several. At one point, I went from a man who tried to strangle me, literally, to a boss who was so socially awkward that it took years of using positive reinforcement to get him to say “Good morning.” With other bosses and more than once, I was designated as the “acting” boss so that the real boss could disappear, in some cases for days on end.
Instead of asking about bosses, I could have asked if you had a parent or grandparent who used the excuse of ‘tough love’ when they were themselves void of loving kindness.
There are a lot of ways that ‘omnipotent moral busybodies,’ borrowing C. S. Lewis’ phrase, can torment you. There are an infinite (seemingly) number of excuses for the treatment, but as C. S. Lewis said, they did what they did for your own good, at least in their minds. That is where the problem lies. They truly believe that they are on the right track, so there is never any easing off. The accelerator is shoved to the floor, and your suffering intensifies.
Of course, there were some people, like my seventh grade coach, that ‘punished’ any and every boy, because the coach enjoyed it. That’s not what we are discussing here. Most of the people that did not treat me well over the years probably did so with my ‘best interests’ in mind. They may have thought, “If I can stop just short of killing him, he might be a better … (fill in the blank).”
God has commanded me to forgive them, so I will. In so doing, I have to make sense of the abuse, tough love, or other mistreatment. So, my statement stands that they ‘did it for my own good.’ And whether they really did it for that reason or not (that’s for God to deal with), it worked for my good, making me a stronger believer.
I’m sure if this has brought up bad memories from your past or thoughts of present conflict, you may not feel as benevolent, but I must forgive. If the wounds are fresh, I hope that you read on.
I have to look toward the scriptures for today’s post. I was never a slave, but I often felt like one. At times, I tried desperately to get another job, but hung onto the one I had when all efforts failed. I was a slave to the paycheck, if you will. My wife had a job once where they treated her in any number of despicable ways, but it was in one of the times that I was out of work. She was hired by the big boss due to my wife’s special certification. Her co-workers were not only uncertified, they were incompetent. Thus, everyone hated my wife at that location. She felt like a tortured slave, but she clung to the job for the family’s sake. Whether employee or slave, these scriptures are saying that God is in control. He’ll see you through the difficulties of life, including the boss, guardian, or overlord who is fed by their own conscience to keep doing to you what they are doing. We are to do our best for the bad boss for God’s Glory, not ours and not the glory of the boss. But, in a few cases, doing such an excellent job that the boss got promoted allowed me a chance to breathe easily for a few days, until I met the new boss.
For those thinking that no one can have that many bad bosses, I worked in companies filled with engineers. Most engineers go into the field because their technical acumen is important and their social acumen is less dominant. For some people who know engineers, at least some engineers, they’d say that their social acumen is nonexistent. The bottom line is that an engineer pushes a button and “X” happens. When “X” does not happen, it is the button’s fault or the faulty wiring behind the button. A common joke among engineers is “When it doesn’t work, get a bigger hammer (or wrench or screwdriver, depending on your engineering discipline)”. Now add those concepts. It is the button’s fault. Get a bigger hammer. But when the button is a human that does not respond as programmed, and might actually have a better idea in the first place, the hammer comes down, very hard.
Yet, for all of those who thought I wasn’t tough enough and needed toughening, I survived and grew stronger in the Faith. For those who thought I was quirky or strange, your abuse didn’t change that one iota. God made me this way, but I have learned how to tone it down a little (but only when I feel it necessary). For those who thought that my belief in God and my strong moral fiber was dangerous for business, I’ll agree with you. You were right when you feared that I might not lie for the company’s benefit. I might, and did, remain silent on many occasions, but make up a story or start a cover-up, never.
Sometimes, the hard times are to harden you. Sometimes, the hard times are to soften you. And sometimes, the hard times are to test you.
If you meet an omnipotent moral busybody who has been given authority over you in some way, do you fight, do you take flight, or do you bear it and love those who abuse you? What does God want you to do?
If you are still in harm’s way, you may choose to take flight. There are organizations that can help. But this article was based on C. S. Lewis’ quote regarding omnipotent moral busybodies who think that they have your own best interest in mind. People who get frustrated and use others as their punching bags (literally or figuratively) are closer to what C. S. Lewis refers to as the ‘robber barons’ – those that do not care about you. Maybe some of them do care, at times (like when they are sober). That makes it that much harder.
As for me, the abuse was mostly verbal and emotional and rarely physical, yet I am old and retired. I can look back on the pain and see that some was warranted, almost all was not warranted, but all of the pain made me stronger. I survived and grew in faith as a result. It’s a viewpoint that you can only see when looking back. When I was in one problem situation or another, I often prayed for deliverance. I can trust God even more now. He delivered me. Look to Him in faith. He can deliver you too.
Now if someone did something legally wrong toward me, I can forgive them, but if they do not repent, I have no problem with earthly punishment.
Then God says that I must love my enemies and I must forgive those who harm me, for He has forgiven me. That’s the true test of having survived a hardship under someone who doesn’t treat you fairly or even abuses you physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. When you realize that down deep inside, you’d hate to see that person burning in hell, you’ll find yourself fully on the other side of the problem. Until then, even after the abuse has finished, you’ll continue to be the victim. Your resentment and harbored ill will causes a barrier between you and the fullness of God’s Grace. You might feel God’s love, but you won’t feel it completely.
But God’s love is stronger than resentment. Through forgiving our oppressors, as God has forgiven us, we grow closer to God. Then we know that all things work to the good for those that love God (Romans 8:28). The bad things may not be good at the time, but when the result is being closer to God, nothing can be better than that.
Writing this has brought back some tough memories, but instead of looking at the pain and hardship, I’m leaning back in my office chair. I’m looking toward heaven and feeling my heavenly Father giving me a great big bear hug.
It will get even better.