It was Sunday night church, and I was in the four-year-old classroom. Our teacher read a Bible story while eight to ten children sat coloring. I was sitting next to a little girl with long, beautiful blond hair. Mine was long and blond, but hers was pulled back with ribbons. It was better. The ribbons coordinated with her dress that had so many ruffles. She looked like a doll. She was friendly and the two boys next to her seemed to like talking to her. I was so shy; they wouldn’t talk to me. They chatted and the little girl giggled. She was getting all the attention! I felt so ignored. It wasn’t fair! In a moment’s thought, I reached out and pinched her as hard as I could. Instantly, the little girl let out a sound of pain and began to weep. “Oh no! I wish I could take that back,” I thought. I didn’t want to hurt her, I just wanted her to feel my pain.
I remember walking the halls of my junior high school followed by a group of girls who taunted me. Actually, it was mainly one girl who taunted me and the rest followed not knowing how to confront her. She was a bully. She was tall, skinny with white-blond hair and pale skin. She’d walk only inches behind me while passing from classroom to classroom, whispering cruel insults in my ear. She’d mock my clothing volubly and made public jokes about my physical features. I hated school because of her. On two occasions she spat in my hair. I did not know how to combat her. I’d go mute and melt into nothing when she harassed me. I was all too ready for a fresh start, when my family moved from Iowa to Nebraska the fall of my eighth grade year, leaving my bully behind.
Conflict between women is nothing new. The Bible gives us plenty of settings where women collided. Can you imagine living amongst all of Solomon’s wives? There had to of been some competitive and insecure women in that group! We’ve heard a little about the distinctions between Mary and Martha’s personalities; we know they had their differences. There’s the story of Sarah and Hagar, her maid, who Sarah gave to Abraham to impregnate, since she was old and doubting she‘d ever have a child, even though God had promised. But, once she was pregnant and she realized what she had done, Sarah began to hate Hagar. Can you imagine the words and looks that would have been exchanged between these two women? Bullying and bickering is not new to history.
1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.”
When women work together they can move mountains. Every year when Walk for the Cure happens, it is awe-inspiring, watching women bond together as sisters, determined and unified. How much more should we be bonded and unified in our faith in Christ Jesus? Instead, I see us bickering over who’s serving up communion, what song should be played during the offertory, who’s closest to the pastor’s wife, or picking each other apart by the way we dress. I actually heard a woman complain that another woman always dressed too nice for church! If these are the petty issues that distract us from living out our faith, Satan doesn’t even have to work! If we can’t love each other, Christian sisters, how can we sincerely love our neighbor? Flawed, we will always be. But the sincerity of a loving heart can cover most flaws. What would happen if we decided to forgive our Christian sisters for offending us? I’m sure some don’t even know they’ve offended us. What if we gave our Christian sisters the benefit of the doubt? We could start a ripple effect within our congregations that would have to over flow into our communities because when we know God’s love, we become God’s love, and God’s love can not be contained.
1 John 4:7-12 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us”
I challenge you today to forgive and forgive again your Christian sisters. Someone has to start the change. Let it be you and me.