In my own life I have experienced a key truth that set me free: removing ourselves from toxic environments and relationships brings healing, clarity of vision, and rapid growth.
Each of you will have your own context that may spring to mind as I share five reasons to take action. Some of you may be in what seem to be very complicated situations – Jesus always holds the key to these.
This doesn’t mean dishonour. We can honour somebody without being mixed up with them. We can honour them for the things that are good in their lives – but for our own sake and the sake of following Jesus’ commands and His Kingdom, we need to let them go.
People may say they are immune to it, they can cope. The pressure may come out in persistent illness, chronic fatigue or headaches. The test is when we walk out and we begin to think clearly, anxiety leaves, and we realise what is true and what is not true about God and ourselves.
Action in the right context, with the right person, at the right time, kindly and firmly by the leading of the Holy Spirit is best. Support is crucial.
Jesus warned His disciples, ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’ (Mark 8: 15) What did He mean? The context was that of a miracle that just happened, and the disciples forgetting to bring bread. Jesus encourages them to keep their spiritual eyes clear of the religious spirit and the political spirit, or they would not ‘see’ a miracle if it was right before their eyes. The religious spirit (‘Pharisee’) brings legalism, law, rules, regulations, fear of failure (forgetting bread!), punishment and performance. The political spirit (‘Herod’) brings divisions, denominationalism (note I have not said denominations which are different to the attitude), factions, gossip, undermining. Both lack real relationship. The tiniest ‘yeast’ of these spirits, if allowed to remain around us and influencing us, can raise many ‘loaves’ of acid bread.
In terms of personal relationships, this could be expressed in many ways, including gradual wearing down of our faith through their lack of belief in miracles and healing, or their criticism and condemnation of us, and through our allowing their opinions of us to have the authority in our lives. Remember I am dealing here with those we choose to have a relationship with and stick around, or take advice from.
The ‘yeast of the Pharisees and Herod’ blinds the eyes of our heart. The eyes of our heart are what the Holy Spirit uses. They are precious to Him, so guard them keenly but kindly.
WE ARE CALLED TO BRING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Jesus explains to the disciples in Mark 8:15-21, following His interaction with the Pharisees who came to test Him by asking Him for a sign from heaven, what happens when they are tainted by the ‘yeast of the Pharisees and Herod’. Their hearts become hardened further and they cannot see. This means their understanding of any miracles He did would be limited. It meant their understanding of heaven was limited. He was encouraging them to open up their spiritual eyes and ears so that they could bring heaven to earth. They needed the ability to hear what Father was saying and watch what He was doing, like Jesus did.
Mark 8:23,26 show clearly how Jesus removed the man who needed healing from the village first, and then told him once he was healed, ‘Don’t go into the village’. Bethsaida, this particular village, is also mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 11:22, for having been a place where many miracles happened, yet where they could not see them for what they were. An atmosphere of unbelief can kill faith. We have a responsibility and commission to bring the Kingdom everywhere. We can do that – yet, we are to be wise in the close relationships and environments we choose. Choose those that encourage our faith.
When we persist in remaining, we become ill, unhappy, burdened; we become dazed, confused, and we cannot become the person God created us to be. We lose sight of our own identity, which is long, slow, death.
Jesus told the Jews who had believed in Him, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really my disciples. THEN you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8:31,32). We can easily recognise when we are holding to teaching that does not come from Jesus, as it does not set us free. In fact it restricts us. The longer we remain in it, however, the harder that is to spot.
Another verse in which He talks about His teaching and way of life, and how it should make us feel, is in Matthew 11:25-30. His way is light, it is gentle and humble, restful, yet powerful, and it is freedom – whether we find ourselves in hard places or not.
SEEK HIS KINGDOM FIRST
We are called to worship God above all else and to put His Kingdom first. This means that if we are pacifying those around us and we are receiving the authority of their opinions in our lives before His, then we are putting them first.
This is not kindness nor love. Kindness and love are not exercised through pacifying people. They are expressed through speaking truth in love, kindly. They are expressed through good and wholesome, interactive relationships where we give and take, and allow one another to be who we are created to be. Seek relationships where you can speak honestly and at the same time receive criticism well, because you know it is toward your healing and development. This takes practice!
BOUNDARIES: FOR OUR GROWTH NOT OUR RESTRICTION
Our growing up in God requires our ability to say ‘No’. If those around us, or those we are connected to in what we falsely call a relationship, are not building us up, loving us genuinely without strings, in fact they are doing quite the opposite: requiring our submission, our obedience, or subtly undermining who we are in Christ, then it is time to set a boundary that puts them as far away as possible. We need to say ‘No thank you’ when they offer us their advice or friendship. We need to kindly lay a line down that is a ‘no cross zone’ to family members who do this to us.
By doing so, we are loving them as we love ourselves – one of the ten commandments. We are graciously offering them an opportunity to realise what they are doing. Many do not recognise their behavior before it is too late (even we can fall into that trap – keep tabs on ourselves through right relationships!). This gives them a chance to change, and seek help if they need to.
It is important to stick to our decision, unless there is clear and confirmed expression of real repentance and desire to seek our good – no strings attached.
This journey needs support from others who have done the same, experienced mentors or relationships with those in the family of Christ who understand.
God give you courage along your journey,
Martina Davis, 13 March 2018.