Hurting others and feeling hurt are often tangled up with each other.
On the one hand, when we hurt others that can leave us feeling hurt ourselves. On the other hand, our own hurt can lead us to lash out and hurt others.
I don’t imagine it’d be too hard to produce a typology of hurt:
The more desperately you’re seeking comfort, the more you’ll suffer when you’re stressed and the more likely you’ll be to inflict hurt on others by outsourcing or defaulting on anything that might stress you out.
If it’s approval that drives you, then you’ll hurt when you’re rejected and hurt others — either by walling yourself off against them if you don’t get approval or smothering them if you do.
If your hunger for control is insatiable, then it’s uncertainty that will hurt you most — just as it’s blame and condemnation that you’ll direct at others who seem to challenge your control.
And if you’re out for power then humiliation (or perceived humiliation) will cut you deepest, while others will probably feel used by you.
What can we say in the face of such an overwhelming variety of ways to be hurt and oppressed or to hurt and oppress others?
Well, if Ephesians 3.1-13 is anything to go by, we can say two things on the basis of the good news of God’s grace in Jesus:
- There is comfort for the oppressed.
- And there is hope for the oppressor.
The good news of God’s grace in Jesus — what Paul calls ‘the mystery’ that ‘has now been revealed … by the Spirit’ — effects the long-awaited victory over the powers that bind and enslave human life, and that produce hurt and hostility between people.
This is why, in Paul’s thought, the church is such a big deal.
For the church is where God’s wisdom is triumphantly displayed — where it’s brandished aloft like a trophy.
For Paul, the church is the place where hurt gets healed (most astoundingly in the reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles).
Oh, that it might be true of our churches!
[To be continued…]