When Church Hurts

April 16, 2016

sad person

Don’t judge Christ by those of us who so imperfectly wear
his name. -Yancey summarizing a quote by Tolstoy
I have fond memories of the church where my father served as minister before his death. They were very good to dad before and after he was diagnosed with ALS. They supported my mother when she became a young widow and loved spending Sunday afternoons with her two small children. They encouraged and rescued us in so many beautiful ways. Regardless of how often I think of them, I can’t shake the memory of the one person who flippantly tossed a few dollars toward my father and told him to get a haircut before he preached again.
Sometimes church hurts. The place that should be the safest sometimes isn’t. Those who should be filled with grace, understanding and support sometimes aren’t. Although we would like to tell the world that we’ve got our act together we don’t. Church isn’t perfect. Thankfully for all of us, Jesus is. 
If we claim Christ as our Lord it is imperative to respond to tragedy, death, politics, anything that threatens our life or liberty in a way that is different from those who don’t. What we post on the Internet, how we treat our spouse, how we act and, more importantly, react to life’s problems is crucial to the Kingdom. Most of the time, we’re great at that. Other times, not so much.
So what do you do when you’ve been hurt by the one place that claims to be a sanctuary? First, realize that you’re standing on a land mine. Scripture tells us that Satan is constantly looking for a way to invade our hearts and attack (1 Peter 5:8). Peter warns us to be on guard, alert and ready for the devil’s advances. Our enemy will see this coming long before we do and will use it to damage the Kingdom. Don’t let him.
Accept the fact that we are all family. If you believe God is creator than you must accept those around you as your brothers and sisters. Especially those who don’t yet know they belong to God. Your treatment of them will either lead them closer to or farther from the Kingdom. 
And maybe you’ve walked away from God because someone who claimed to follow Jesus said something hurtful. Maybe it needed to be said but the tone and attitude left you thinking and feeling that Jesus was an arrogant tyrant. Or maybe it never needed to be said at all. Maybe they were wrong.
Maybe they cared more about their doctrine than they did about your soul.
Maybe they didn’t understand that church is a family of the broken and not a country club for the rich.
Maybe they had bad theology or just bad manners.
Maybe their traditions were more important than truth.
Maybe they didn’t take the time to sit down and get to know you.
Maybe they acted like they had all the answers instead of introducing you to the One who does.
Maybe they took one look at your brokenness and instead of offering comfort, offered a religious checklist.
Maybe instead of being preached at, you just needed to be loved on.
Maybe all you needed was to be shown Jesus but instead you got the church. Wounded, imperfect, flawed followers marred by tradition. Well-meaning stumblers of grace who have been known to have a hard time showing the love of Christ. I promise that we’re trying but we get it wrong occasionally. Thankfully the Bible gives us several examples of others who left Jesus shaking his head.
When the people in Samaria refused to accept Christ, James and John were ready to torch the entire city (Luke 9:54-55).
When Bartimaeus called out in faith for Jesus to heal him, some demanded his silence (Mark 10:46-49).
When others were performing miracles in the name of Jesus, the apostles wanted them stopped (Mark 9:39).
When the disciples tried to keep the children away from the busy Messiah it was the adults who got in trouble (Matthew 19:13).
If harsh words have been spoken to you, if you’ve been treated in a way that is mean and unfair, if you’ve wandered away from God because his people were a bit rough around the edges, I want to take this moment to apologize and ask you to give Jesus another chance. Don’t blame him for our failings. We’re working on this loving others lifestyle but we have a tendency to mess it up. We’re not perfect. Forgive us for claiming to be. Give Christ another chance.  Give us another chance.
Church, be nice.  Remember that you’re not the director or star of this Kingdom adventure. You’re an usher. Lead others in. 
Originally published at Marshall Daily.

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