As we move into the conversation about friendships in “the Gift of Helping” devotional series, I want to talk to you about a type of friend you don’t want to have.
This friend is a woman (or man, though it expresses itself differently) influenced by the spirit of Jezebel. Common psychological descriptions of this kind of person would be: narcissistic personality, borderline personality, or bipolar disorders. I realize that it can appear stigmatizing to attach the label of an unclean spirit to a psychological disorder, but let me remind you of three things: 1. You are not your disorder. Your created person is not your disorder. 2. Mental illness is the nastiest kind of disease. The pathologies of narcissistic personality, borderline personality, and bipolar disorders are devastating and destructive. It is why we characterize the symptoms as “abnormal” and “serious.” 3. My disease model, my theory of disease, is intertwined with my theology. From a charismatic perspective, which mine is, everything, even Life and Death, and certainly Illness, is driven by entities that are spiritually embodied and active in heaven and on earth.
In fact, “the Gift of Helping” series is from the period where I was rejecting God’s shelter over my life and person. You probably have or will detect throughout this series, in my accounts about my own behavior, a Jezebel quality to my neuroses.
A friend under a Jezebel influence is controlling, chaotic, and frenzied. They have disorganized attachments to other people. They love you until they hate you, and they always hate you when you are not doing what they want you to do.
This kind of person will force you into “contracts,” commitments, and covenants with her. When you try to withdraw at all, even just to attend to your other relationships, you are accused of abandoning her.
The Jezebel friend is seducing. If there is ever an argument, she knows how to smooth ruffled feathers, ease your anxieties (anxieties, also known as discernment!), and get you firmly tucked back under her wing.
You can feel that you are in a romantic relationship with this kind of friend as she expects you to prioritize her above your own family and all of your other friends. This person will confess love to you, give you gifts, and compliment you. She catches you up in the whirlwind of her affection, her passions, and her problematic life. She wants you; she needs you; she’s gotta have you. You are the best thing ever and the only true friend she’s ever had. Which means, you better not let on that you have other friends, let alone a husband. And you better not let her down.
You are probably this Jezebel’s personal helper. Her help-meet even. This is why this topic is so relevant as you launch into “the Gift of Helping” series of devotionals. You must be discerning about helping, what it is and isn’t. Be aware when you’re being asked to “give sacrificially,” or to “serve the needs of others,” or to “lay down your life for a friend.” God is a God of order. You are fully empowered by scripture to refuse to serve disorder.
The Jezebel influenced friend has a highly developed sense of her own righteousness. She will complain about and criticize the character substance of other people. She will make bold and unequivocal statements about her virtue and high value standards. She most likely feels persecuted. She is well versed in her superior understanding and will use this against you. You will be chastised as being morally in the wrong for anything she perceives as a slight.
The spirit of Jezebel is a religious, legalistic spirit, and it is a defiling spirit. Remember that Jezebel herself was a priestess, and highly motivated to dictate the religious life of Israel. She worshipped and served the “Queen of Heaven,” Ashtoreth. Under the guise of “works of righteousness” a modern-day devotee of Ashtoreth will violate your personal autonomy in every area of life that you give her access to. She will seduce you with the promise of “kingdom work” as a way to win a carte blanch to your time and energy.
Because of the legalistic nature of the spirit of Jezebel, I do not believe that “boundaries” are the appropriate construct to defend your personal sovereignty from the intrusion of a Jezebel friend. You cannot fight legalism with legalism. You must counter legalism with grace.
Boundaries are a pre-prescribed set of laws for how you expect to be treated. Boundaries do not allow for a spontaneous response to a situation fit to the specifications of the actual problem unfolding in realtime.
Boundaries depend on assumptions of what problems will arise and what will solve them. Boundaries can sometimes become arbitrary and cause unnecessary, unproductive conflict.
Grace is marked with love and defined by freedom. Boundaries require you to relinquish your freedom to them ahead of time for a sense of protection. Grace depends on God to protect you from violating types of people. Grace leaves space for the Holy Spirit to move in every one of our relationships and conflicts according to His time and His terms.
When we operate in this way we follow Jesus’ command to “let our yes be yes and our no be no.”
In Matthew 5:33-37, Jesus instructs, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
Even boundaries are a form of an oath. (But, so are professions of love!)To create pre-set boundaries says in essence, “I will always” or “I will never;” “you must always”or “you must never.” Those are oaths. They are binding and inflexible.
To truly maintain autonomy and sovereignty in any relationship, all that really needs to happen is for you to say “yes,” and act out “yes” or say “no,” and act out “no.”
I already know what you’re thinking— that this is way harder than setting boundaries. Exactly.
Legalism is always easier than grace.
Legalism streamlines the process of interactions. It lets us go on autopilot by requiring less continual emotion. It depends on unforgiveness, propagating hair-trigger conflict and expediting the severing of interpersonal ties.
A Jezebel friend wants to force you quickly into contracts with her and becomes enraged when you break them. So don’t make them. Don’t get caught up in confessions of “best friendship” or sisterhood. Don’t depend on boundaries— because she’s probably the one making, breaking, and redrafting them anyway.
Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Believe me, she’ll stop wanting to be your friend real fast.
This kind of steadfastness cuts right through the vapors of emotion and the confusion of frenetic pressure that Jezebel loves to apply.
Try to argue with a single, solitary “yes” or a single, solitary “no.” You can’t. They are inviolable.
If you are being drawn into a “helping” relationship with a person who reacts frantically or angrily to hearing “no,” it is likely that you are not going to be edifying this person spiritually through the gift of helping, but rather you are about to become their blood supply.
If you cannot stand your ground, she is probably for someone else to minister to. You can always do as Elijah did: Run. Hide. Cry Out to God. Wait for directions.