When my heart was prompted to write about a touchy subject like Church hurt, I honestly didn’t know where to start. What happens when Christians aren’t behaving like Christians? What happens when the church aka “Gods House” doesn’t feel safe- safe to be who you are truly. Let me start off by saying that this is in no means meant to be one of those negative, bashing articles about how Christians have got it wrong. That’s not my heart. So bear with me.
But before I venture forward I think it’s important to understand a key thing about the Church. The Church is made up of imperfect people (much like the rest of the world and all of humanity). It would be dangerous to spin off of the idea that the source of the Christian faith, Jesus, is a reflection of His followers; or to sum up the whole of Christianity only on your encounter or experience with self proclaiming Christians. In fact that would be backwards. It is Christians who strive to obtain the spirit and attitude of Christ and the love of God but in imperfect human nature tend to fall short of that. We can’t verify who God is based on the flawed actions of His people. We can only verify who God is by who He says He is in His word. The sad reality is that many people walk away from the church because they’ve defined Christianity by the shortcomings of its followers.
That being said, Christians there are a couple things we have to stop doing to people that’s doing more harm than good…
1. Judging without knowing, listening or understanding. Some of us have taken “judge according to their fruit” to an extreme. It’s certainly a scripture of discernment in verifying how a persons actions align by their character and spirit. It’s wisdom. But ask yourself, are you judging just to judge? Or are you using this discernment to better understand who a person is out of a place of love. So they don’t have it all together, who does? This is the epitome of why we came to Christ. This is why we became a body, to help each other- not center on each others flaws. We can’t forget where God brought us from and that it too was a process. Remember that everyone is at different stages of their journey and many times we are ignorant as to how they got there.
And here’s the core of it. We have shallow judgments because we have shallow relationships. I always say, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” There’s a natural and understandable negative stigma in trying to judge someone you barely know or even vice versa. It’s shallow. And these critical debates on social networks like Twitter or Facebook don’t help because it barely allows for deep and genuine relationships to be built unless a true effort is made. For example: Me and my mother, brother or best friend could disagree and correct each other all day long but because we’ve built an emotional bank with one another and because there is a deep source of love for one another, there is effectiveness and good motives in this correction. I feel safe in that.
Now, right is right and wrong is wrong no matter who points it out- I’m not canceling that. And we ought to be humble enough to accept correction when we’re wrong (even though it absolutely makes our flesh cringe and wants to fight back in defense). But it all comes down to the source- love. Do you love a person enough to understand why they are the way they are? Why they said what they said? What brought them to this current place. Do you GENUINELY care? Or are you just scrolling, eyeing, assuming and pre-judging. Correction & Accountability is healthy- being critical and shallow is not.
2. Not going to the person you have an issue with. This is probably one of the biggest catalysts of not just church drama but ALL drama. But for the sake of scripture:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18: 15-17).
To paraphrase, if someone is doing wrong, if you’re feeling some kind of way about someone or bothered by something they did go to that person directly, talk it out and settle it there. In hopes that a mature conversation (one willing to understand the other) would take place, it would diffuse resentment, harboring bitterness or the urge to gossip. If someone comes to you with a problem with someone else, we direct them to that person. If it can’t be resolved you bring in a mutual, trusted and sound 3rd or 4th party to help bring a solution. And if someone isn’t willing to work it out or continues to be negative about it, forgive them and let them go. I’ve witnessed my fair share of unnecessary drama in ministry, church and life because two people weren’t mature or courageous enough to talk out their own problems. This is something we have to all adapt if we want to be effective in love and unity as a body.
There are a number of things we can work on personally and altogether. And I’ve probably only scratched the surface but here’s the fundamental truth. When we lose love as the center motive for all we do, we miss the power of the gospel. It’s love that changed us all. It’s love that died on the cross. It’s love that set us free. Any surface acts of Christianity only backfire.
And a word of encouragement to us all:
It goes both ways. Even when we’re hurt by Christians we can’t hold God accountable to the ill-choices imperfect people have made in their free will. We still need to find it in our heart to forgive all people. I get it, it hurts when the people who are suppose to love and accept you prove themselves otherwise. And I’m sure at some point in time we’ve been on both sides of the spectrum.
So what happens when we see bad seed being sown on Gods grounds? What happens when the world enters the church- whether that be attitudes or beliefs. Do we say “Forget this. I don’t want any part of this.” and walk away? Do we isolate ourselves to prevent another bad experience? I’ve been there! And here’s what I learned:
The good and the bad must grow together.
So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
We’ll never impact the world positively if we run and isolate in the face of evil. The saying goes, “All that takes for evil to prevail is that good people do nothing.” If you see bad in the church that is more of a reason to be the difference you want to see where you want to see it. Lead by example in the direction you aspire for. That doesn’t just go for in the church, but everywhere we go. How will anything change if good people cannot bring a positive shift to bad culture. Dont stop growing into the best you can be because of the disappointment of others. Don’t let their actions push YOU back. Dont stop pursuing Christ or seeking the truth of who He is because of a bad experience with His people.
But also don’t lose hope! There are plenty of great, loving, serving and generous people in the church. As I’ve grown I’ve had an overwhelming experience of being embraced as family sometimes even closer than family! I’ve encountered people who’ve helped changed my life for the better forever. In relationship to this post, I can finally say that through overcoming a stronghold of church hurt I’ve learned in summary:
1. God is good even when His people aren’t.
2. We have to be the solution we want to see around us.
3. We have to remain good in the face of evil and not reduce ourselves to evil in response.
4. Love must be the driving cause of everything we do if we’re going to be effective.
5. Forgiving and praying for those who’ve hurt us (even leaders) is way more effective than harboring resentment and falsely projecting it on the church as a body.
If you’ve experienced church hurt or are in the midst of giving up because of bad experiences or know someone who’s struggling with some of these feelings I really hope this was helpful. I love you and I’d love to hear back from you! Comment below!