I’ve been hurt by the church.
This is probably the most used phrase regarding the church besides of course “church is full of hypocrites”. I’ve been thinking what does being hurt by ‘the church’ entitle us to?
Being hurt by spiritual people in spiritual environments is a common occurrence and it probably always will be. In spiritually charged situations like church there are expectations that people should not be perfect but be our own definitions of perfect. And because we are imperfect, trying our best to follow God (and how many interpretations for that are there!) we are constantly projecting what we think is right on everyone else; hurt and judgment is bound to happen.
I heard a story of someone who kicked another person out of her small group because the person wouldn’t give up a sin habit (what a hilarious phrase). The leader interpreted her bible to say that if someone lives in sin to ‘remove them from your meeting’. Her choice would no doubt be defined by herself as true kindness and obedience. As much as we would all judge her for being judgmental and hateful (‘would Jesus kick someone out’ would be our go-to phrase) you gotta stop and think how hard that must have been for her. Here is the leader trying to do what she believes the bible says to do even when it’s hard and the person in the small group is probably trying her best to kick the sin habit but something isn’t working. The question isn’t was she right or wrong because that can be argued either way, the observation is that people are about to get hurt.
The ironic thing is that someone else with another interpretation of the bible could ask the leader to be removed because she is female. It’s a never-ending cycle! Bible verse after bible verse and the Apostle Paul nowhere around to expand on what in the world he meant when he said it.
All I know is that this is how things start…good people trying their best and everything falling apart in the process.
The problem isn’t that there is no grace or love in the church the problem is that everyone has different definitions of grace and love and EVERYONE has a different interpretation of the bible. No matter the side you take in the story you will never convince the leader that she isn’t reading the bible correctly and you’ll never convince the “sinner” that her leader did it out of love. So, what is the answer?
Do you find a church as similar to you as possible so there is less judgment but no challenging thought or person? Do you find a church that challenges everything you think so that there’s more growth but you hate everyone who goes there? Do you find a church that’s so huge you never have to have a real relationship with anyone because everyone is so disappointing anyways? Do you find a house church so you feel less controlled by a pastor but then have to deal with people in your business?
Being married to a pastor I can honestly say that no one gets hurt or judged more by ‘the church’ than a pastor themselves. Dustin and I have some crazy stories. We’ve been thought the worst of when we were trying our best, we get judged but are then accused of judging, people think we are too liberal or too conservative (you can never be what everyone wants), we’ve been given “spiritual words” that brought nothing but pain and confusion and were entirely inappropriate and wrong. And unfortunately, we’ve hurt people too.
I realize some people are just pure evil and full of pride and just given over to satan to do his bidding among God’s holy people but for the most part those are not the people hurting us. It’s people trying their best and just not being our definition of kind, gracious, perfect or holy.
So, although feelings of hurt are valid it doesn’t make anyone special, it makes us believers who choose Christian community because that’s how the apostles in Acts set it up. It’s super messy but if it makes you feel better your pastors are feeling it to. The one thing it doesn’t warrant is giving up.
I get hurt sometimes in my marriage but because there is a covenant there and I have complete faith that Dustin loves me at his core I can forgive and move on and the same goes for him. Find a church where you know you are loved at the core and then enjoy the mess!
In YWAM my DTS leader always said that tension is necessary for growth. Well, there we have it.
Forever in debt to the people of The Harvest who love and support Dustin and I unconditionally even though we are young and crazy! Words can never express…