The following is my response to all those who have been hurt and "damaged" by the church:
The days and times we are living in seem set against living a Christian lifestyle. Christians are under fire in our country more than they ever have been. We read about those who profess to be Christians and how they fall from grace. The media loves to quickly point out when we fall and/or when we fail. They are quick to pick up on our faults and our hypocrisies. It has become open season on Christians.
May I just point out one thing here - most sincere Christians don't set out to live a life of hypocrisy; in fact, we truly endeavor not to. But we are only human. We are simply sinners saved by grace. I sincerely desire to do the loving thing in all situations I am faced with, but I am fallible and, often times, I do not do the loving thing. Does that necessarily mean I am a hypocrite? No, I don't believe so. It means I fall, I pick myself up and try again, counting on God's grace to help me. I believe most Christians are the same. But even the church seems to want to kill their wounded. I see blog after blog that continues to rail against the church and blame all their problems on what the church has done to them. It saddens me to see so much bitterness and unforgiveness toward the church.
Perhaps those who dwell on criticizing the bad apples who hurt them, might better use their energies to dwell on the good apples that actually helped them along the way? Doesn't the act of blaming indicate a certain self-righteousness in itself? Doesn't the choice to stay stuck in the church bashing indicate a certain stubbornness or pride in itself? Do you have all the answers? Blaming the church members who have hurt you is, in itself, an excuse! It is self-righteous, the very thing the offended person is holding against others! Does your blaming just become your excuse and justification for going your own way and doing your own thing?
The church, as broken as it is, is the best shot we have in this world, to "put skin on" Jesus. And yet we fail day after day after day. The church is not perfect, never will be, never could be, because it will always be made up of imperfect people who are, at best, a work in process.
When I listen to people call out all the wrongs the church has done and continues to do, when I read the testimonies about how being raised in the church has ruined another life, I can't help but be saddened and think to myself, we all seem to have missed the point.
The definitions of church, as found in the American Heritage Dictionary are as follows - "All Christians regarded as a spiritual body; a building for public worship; a congregation; a religious service; ecclesiastical power as distinguished from the secular; clergy."
The church (ekklesia [ek-lay-see-ah]), as defined by Scripture - a calling out; a popular meeting; a religious congregation; community of members on earth or saints in heaven or both, refers to "called-out ones."
We are referred to as a "body of believers" or the "body of Christ" - the church. (1 Corinthians 12:27) We, the members of the church, make up the church. Well, last I knew a whole body needs a head. And, I believe too many times, we look exclusively to the "body" and forget about the "head." This is the point!
Christianity is not about a body of believers. Christianity is first about the "head." We are only as effective as we remember, honor and obey that "head." Jesus Christ, Himself, is our "head." Christianity, then, is about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Then as we are in right relationship with Him, we walk out that relationship here on earth.
At best a body of believers is made up of redeemed sinners doing their best to follow and obey this "head" - Jesus. At worst, this body totally disregards the head or even fails to recognize the true head.
My grief is that those who have been hurt by the church (the body) are not able to separate the doings of the body with the commands and example of Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Christianity is not about doings, it's about relationship. Sadly, when people are hurt by the church, they not only reject the church and it's teachings, they also reject the head - Jesus. They reject the relationship, because they are not able to separate the two.
God the Father is all about relationship. He gave us Jesus to restore us to fellowship with Him, because He was longing for relationship with us. As we remain in right relationship with the Father, through Jesus, then we have a shot at getting it right in our relationships with others.
I read this on Facebook awhile back and thought there was some validity to it:
"We are advised to not judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics. Funny how that works!"
Funny how we get to pick and choose our "group." But I'm not here to speak to that. I'm just thinking that in the context of this blog we could say it this way -
We should not judge any group by the actions of a few!
And that definitely goes for the church. We should not judge the church or the "head" by the actions of a few - whether they are simply misguided, utterly insincere, a true lunatic or still just a work in process! A few does not define the whole. You will find "lunatics" in all organized groups. Sadly, these are the ones that give the others a bad name.
When we "blow it" and we all do, Christian and non-Christian alike, what a difference it would make if we had those who would walk alongside us to help restore and to set us back on the "right track." And what a difference it would make if we could own up to what we've done, seek forgiveness from those we've hurt and make restitution.
In Christianity, we always need to go back to the teachings of Jesus and His Word. That is our standard and we cannot and should not judge Him by the actions of a few "lunatics."
I grieve for you who have been hurt by the church. I, too, have been deeply hurt, many times,during my 41 years as a Christian. There were times I wanted to walk away and never look back. But knowing the true character of the "head" (Jesus), I knew I couldn't just leave and effectively live for Him and serve Him. He calls me to be a witness to the love and character of who He is. I can't love Him and others and effectively live for Him, if I am constantly at war with His teachings and principles. I desperately long for and want an ongoing relationship with Him and Scripture tells me I can't say I love Him if I don't love others; those He loves, too, even when they/we/I do hateful things in His name.
Because I know God is love and Jesus is the express representation of God incarnate, I know I am called to love. He loves not only me, He loves all those I may have a problem with. He loves even those who hurt me in His name and He loves me even when I might hurt others in His name.
I know lots of people who have been hurt by other well meaning Christians who thought they were doing "God's work," either by misinterpretation of Scripture, misused authority, bullying, manipulative control, arrogance, meanness, delusion, etc. You name it, I'm sure it's been done. I could give you story after story; experiences of my own and others, but what good would that do?
As a Christian who is truly desirous of living out the character of God in my life, I understand that my only recourse, my obligation, as it were, is to forgive. As I endeavor to forgive all those who may sin against me, I am forgiven by God and my fellowship and relationship with Him remains intact, which is what I truly desire above all else. When I sin against others (I have and I do), I need to repent and then accept His forgiveness with a determination in my heart to more closely follow Him. Let me just add here, forgiveness doesn't mean that you accept mistreatment at the hands of others; it means you forgive and walk away, knowing the Lord doesn't expect us to live in abusive relationships.
My heart truly hurts when I hear of those who have not only left the church, but have also forsaken the Lord and His Word. Please, please, please, do not allow the actions of a few to cut you off from the One, the One who continually loves you and reaches out to you. Search the Scriptures, be convinced of who He says He is and what He says a true Christian should be.
The only way we can improve the church is if each one of us truly strives to live according to God's principles and commandments. As we each endeavor to do that, we can change the church - one member at a time, starting with ourselves.
Sincerely and In His Love,
Just One Disciple Seeking to Follow Jesus