How to Handle Misunderstanding


Misunderstanding. The mere sound of that word can be painful. We all know what it is to be misunderstood, don’t we? And Jesus knew it better than we ever have or could. Can you imagine all the inaccurate thoughts clanking around in the heads of the onlookers who attended His crucifixion?

Some thought He was a criminal. Some thought He was smitten and afflicted because of His sin, but the truth was that He was smitten and afflicted because of their sin. Still, others mocked Him as “King of the Jews” and thought there was no possible way He could be God. “Surely God would be powerful enough to deliver Himself from a torturous death!” they cried.

Do you have family and friends who misunderstand you? Your mission in life? Your struggles and pain? What is your response to their misunderstanding? I know I often experience a full gamut of negative emotions when I’m taken for someone I’m not: anger, sadness, frustration, a sense of injustice. But I also have learned to feel relief. Because when everyone around me is presumably thinking or even expressing falsehood, and nobody seems to understand what it’s like to be Brenda Coats, I know Jesus gets it. He fully understands. He knows my circumstances better than anyone, and He knows the twists, turns, and crevices of my heart, good and bad. And others? Well, they only see my outer woman – silly stuff like Facebook posts, what I drive, what I wear to church versus what I wear on Tuesday – you get the point. It is common to observe a smidgen here, a tidbit there, and voila! Make a judgment. I’ve done it to others and others have done it to me. But Jesus is always spot on, perfect in His understandings of our circumstances and character.

When the crowd esteemed Him stricken and smitten, He was in fact looking on them as the stricken and smitten. And yet … what was His response to this great misunderstanding? To remain steadfast in His mission by staying on the cross. Then as the mocking, scorning, piercing, and stoning continued, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, separated His soul from His flesh, and died for the very ones who not only misunderstood Him, but tortured Him.

That’s a tough act to follow. I can’t say the first desire of my heart when being touted as someone I’m not is to forgive and lay down my life. It’s to self-defend, set the record straight, and throw a proverbial punch. Sometimes, there’s a time and a place for setting the record straight. There were plenty of times throughout Jesus’ ministry where He tried to un-kink the twisted minds of people. But more often than not, Jesus’ response to painful misunderstanding was to forgive, and carry on with His overall mission.

Our mission, then, is to follow suit – to correct others when appropriate, with the help of the Holy Spirit, in the spirit of meekness, humility, and peace-making, and leave the results to God. All with the realization that usually, there’s no sense attempting to change the hearts or minds of those who are eager to believe the worst. Only God can change a heart like that. The only thing we can control is our reaction to other people’s actions. 
So next time you’re misunderstood? Pray and evaluate whether you should respond. If the answer is no, then …

Onward, Christian soldier, marching as to war.
With the cross of Jesus, going on before.

Or, in this case, going on AS before. As if you’ve never been misunderstood by finite humans, but are fully understood by an omniscient God who has given you a mission … and you are not to be deterred.

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