Rev. John Marshall Crowe, D.Min.

Very often a  tae kwon do instructor will remind the students of the three basics goals of self-defense. If someone attacks you, the first basic goal calls for escaping. If they persist, then you seek to bring them under control. If they escape your attempts to control, then you block and strike just enough to stop them.

Not everyone trained in TKD lives with these basics solidly in place. If they are attacked or perceive an attack, they immediately respond with the third basic goal. That’s not all either. These bullies take number three beyond any reasonable boundary. Such people blindly crash the boundaries of others. Oftentimes their lives demonstrate the gracefulness of an octopus on four pair of roller skates.

The NT teaches us a balance of grace and truth for our Christian discipleship in interpersonal relations. Jesus taught us to first of all go to the offending person and talk with them. If they do not listen, we are to take someone with us. If they continue with their hard heartedness, we are to bring them before the church. If they still do not listen, they face the consequences.

Years ago, the elders of a church confronted a man with evidence. They had concrete, hard, undeniable evidence of his misbehavior with some women in the church’s singles ministry and young girls in the church. What shocked them the most was not that this man denied anything. He did not deny a single thing that they had concrete evidence that he had done. What he did deny was that any of that was abuse.

They told him, “There are all sorts of ways you can get help. We want to offer you all of these, but we can’t have this continue.” “Well, what if I just showed up again?” asked the guy. They replied, “We will have to make a very brief but honest report about your situation, our offer of help and your refusal of it. People will have to use this information to make the wisest decisions possible.”

The next Sunday, the guy was there. Somebody makes an announcement. Before the choir director could even get to the microphone, this fellow flies up, grabs the mike, and began telling people why he was let go from his ministry. Immediately, four elders came forward, apprehended him, and gently but firmly took him out of the building, calling the police and had him restrained from their property.

The next week, the church phone rang off the hook. The basic summary of all the calls went something like this one, “We’ve been visiting your church for awhile and wondered about joining here. After what we saw on Sunday, we think this is the church for us and we thank you for what you did. We’ve never felt so safe at a church. We’ve never been a part of a church where wrong doers are actually dealt with—a place where the young vulnerable are actually protected, where people whose lives are out of order are held accountable.”

Failing to combine both truth and grace opens us up a laundry list of epidemic problems in the North American Church. Much depression in ministry leaders and in their marriages leads them to quit church. The core issue is hardly ever too loose or too rigid of boundaries. Very often the core issue is traceable to unbalanced combinations of boundaries and love with one’s own family, marriage, and sometimes the extended family.

Study the four gospels to see how Jesus combined both truth and grace. Read the epistles to find examples of the early church living or not living with disciplined and loving boundaries. Now, evaluate your own Christian discipleship, marriage, parenthood and ministry. As a spiritual martial artist for Jesus where are your growing edges concerning truth and grace?

"Practical Spiritual Self Defense for the congregation."