For your daily walk and growth in Christ

What to do when the flesh gets defensive?

by | Jun 23, 2022

“…Pilate said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?’ But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” — Matthew 27:13, 14 ESV

At the time of this writing, I’ve recently been attacked by someone close to me, shocked to be accused of some things that really hurt me. I immediately felt the flesh well up within me. Can you relate? I’m betting you can!

I’ve been walking with some understanding of the Christ-Life Truth for many years now, and immediately knew the flesh was at work. I know something of who I am in Christ; I know that the flesh always responds out of me trying to meet my own needs – to be my own source; and I know most of my responses in the flesh are simply coping mechanisms – anger, defensiveness, avoidance, sarcasm, superiority – all in an attempt to compensate for the failure of the flesh to meet an underlying need. (As an example, I struggled to not add the word “falsely” in front of accused in the first line of this post! Whew! Snuck it in here!)

I struggled through that conversation, keenly aware of the Spirit trying to convince me of God’s sufficiency toward me as His son. In Him, I don’t have a need that must be met by me or anyone else – validating myself, proving someone wrong, attacking back stronger than I was attacked under the guise of “righteous indignation”…

I was also keenly aware of the flesh in me reacting to the flesh of my attacker – convincing me of how unfair, inaccurate, undeserved, and self-preserving it all was. Thoughts of my own self-defense and self-righteousness – whether they are accurate or not – demonstrated I had a need that I was trying to meet for myself: justification. Self-sourced living is always flesh. Make sense?

My frustration with my accuser was only overshadowed by my flustered feelings about my own immediate identity crisis! I couldn’t say much of anything. Finally just had to end the conversation and walk way. Since then, I’ve thought of a thousand fleshy reasons for their attack and even more fleshy responses from me. But in it all, I see that if this person is right about my choices, I can afford it, and if they are not right about me, I can afford them to have it wrong.

In Christ, you can afford to be wrong, and you can afford to be wronged.

Christ is enough for me. But it’s my choice whether to live from His “enoughness” or self-justify, defend, and exalt myself over another.

As I’ve worked to rest from being the solution to my own flesh, and instead sow to the Spirit, talking to God and relinquishing the outcomes, our conversation has highlighted five questions which clarify the flesh experienced and which challenge my faith to trust God for the emotional need He uncovers.

Maybe these questions will be helpful to you:

  1. How do you respond when attacked?
  2. What’s the need to be defensive based on?
  3. What is the truth of Christ’s sufficiency for you in that situation?
  4. What might God show you through it?
  5. What would it take to be available for what He’s doing in their life causing them to accuse you?

I’ve read and prayed through through John 19:1-11, and I am encouraged by Jesus’ confidence in God’s sovereignty and sufficiency. You should read it and be encouraged, too.

Remember your identity is from Him by grace, so you can afford not to be affirmed by anyone else.

You can afford, by His grace, for flesh to be revealed, because the flesh is in you, but it’s not you.

And as I pray for you this week, and covet your prayer for me, I trust in His perfect work in you, as He uses all things to bring you into a deeper awareness of and dependence on His Life in and through you.

Can you relate to this struggle?

When or how have you witnessed within yourself the struggle between flesh and Spirit?

What does it look like for you to sow to the Spirit instead of trying to self-improve?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

ridiculously graced…
-mike.

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