Travis Barnes lives in central Victoria with his wife and two daughters. He is an associate minister with the Churches of Christ denomination. Travis loves to help people find their God-given calling and encourage people to walk with Jesus into the unique adventure he has for each person. His website is here.
Today, I like to again welcome guest blogger, Travis Barnes to my site. He recently wrote this article about being hurt by churches.
Words for the Wounded
I sat through the ugly meeting. You could feel the hostility in the room. A special Church meeting attempting to bring people together had quickly spiralled out of control. There were false accusations and unloving rebuttals. A divisive Church vote would soon follow. I was disturbed and devastated by what I experienced. It would be my last Sunday at that Church for many years.
You didn’t have to be there with me to know what it feels like to be wounded by Church. Many of us have experienced pain and heartbreak at the hands of our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. Allow me to share some words for the wounded.
When we are grieving over sin and wrongdoing it’s important to remember God grieves too. In Genesis God was grieved in his heart that he ever made mankind. Jesus grieves over Jerusalem and Paul warns believers not to bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by how we live (See Genesis 6:6, Matthew 23:37 & Ephesians 4:30). God the Father, Son and Spirit all have the capacity for grief. The sin in our world is worthy of lament. We should grieve when Churches are disunited and when relationships are broken. We ought to mourn when Church disunity causes a Church to turn inward and forget about its mission in the world. If you’re grieving over sin, it’s okay to cry, God cries too.
Jesus heals all wounds
It’s often said time heals all wounds; which sounds nice but it’s not true. Some people carry offence around for years, the passage of time doesn’t automatically bring healing to our deepest wounds. It’s Jesus who we should look to for healing and Jesus wants us to be an active participant in the healing process. For me it involved forgiving people over and over again in prayer. I continued to offer forgiveness and eventually my heart caught up. My journey to forgiveness took more than time; it took obedience. It took forgiving when I didn’t feel like forgiving.
You’ve sinned too
We can become so focused on those who have sinned against us that we forget that we too are guilty of sin. We too have been unloving at times and have said hurtful things, we have not always loved the Lord our God as we should. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells a story of a servant who owes his master millions of dollars and begs his master for patience but instead the master cancels the debt. The servant no longer needs to pay. No sooner has the servant been forgiven he finds someone who owes him a few thousand dollars and shows him no mercy. Being wronged a few thousand dollars isn’t insignificant. If you were underpaid a few thousand dollars by your employer I’m sure you’d write a strongly worded letter of complaint. A few thousand dollars isn’t insignificant unless you compare it to the millions the servant was forgiven.
Your sin before God is so large and so overwhelming that you’d never be able to repay it even if you had 1000 lifetimes. We’d be in a hopeless situation if not for the mercy and forgiveness of God.
Where should our focus be?
Should we marvel at God’s overwhelming love and forgiveness or should we nit-pick over the amount we’ve been wronged?
People have hurt you and people have hurt me. It’s not nothing, it’s not insignificant but it’s not even a drop in the bucket compared to our sin before God. To sit around obsessing over how you’ve been wronged suggests you’re missing the big picture of how much you’ve been forgiven.
You didn’t earn your forgiveness; it was given to you freely. So why would you not pass on forgiveness freely to others? Why would you treat people differently to how God treated you? Unforgiveness will poison your soul; it was poising mine. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.
God loves his Church
No marriage is perfect. You get home from the honeymoon to begin your new life together and next thing you know someone in your marriage is leaving the towel on the bathroom floor. They open cupboards and forget to shut them. They keep their tomato sauce in the cupboard and not the fridge. No marriage is perfect and yet we don’t give up on our spouses because of imperfections. We love our spouses; they’re not perfect but they’re ours.
God describes the Church as his bride. The Church isn’t perfect, it’s full of failed and flawed people learning the ways of Jesus and being transformed to be more like him. The Church isn’t perfect but God loves it because it’s his.
Don’t give up on God’s idea
The Church is God’s idea; he won’t be giving up on it. I encourage you not to give up on God’s Church because it’s his. He loves the Church despite it’s flaws just as he loves you despite your flaws.