Have you ever been hurt by another Christian, a Christian church or a church leader? If you haven’t, you are either lying or forgetful. It seems like you can’t make it a week without reading an article or seeing a show about how a Christian leader or entire church has failed morally or ethically or legally. This week I learned there is a seven part Netflix series serving as a documentary on this very issue.
Sometimes it feels like being a Christian is an impossible uphill battle. We get accused by unbelievers of being close minded. When we do find people open to God’s work in their life, they are “done” with the church, and then we come to church only to get frustrated with the people we are worshipping with. I know I am not painting a very pleasing picture, but it is a truth we need to address. In his book God Space, Doug Pollack dedicates an entire chapter to teaching Christians who wish to make a positive impact for God that sometimes the journey starts with rebuilding burned bridges.
It used to frustrate me to no end when people who said they were Christian would hurt other believers and even worse, hurt an unbeliever. When I learned about injustices caused or worsened by the church, it would break my heart. While these things still cause me great sorrow, my reaction is much different. The beauty of the church isn’t that we never hurt each other; the beauty is that when we do hurt each other, we have the gift of confession and absolution. The power of confessing your sin and forgiving those who have harmed you is life changing, eternal life changing even.
When people run from the church, or from church people, when we run from people who hurt us or to avoid potential conflict, we allow the devil to continue to increase our hurts and our division. When we take to heart the prayer Jesus taught us, we are able to enter a place of beauty and healing to forgive one another and redeem our sins by washing them in Christ’s blood.
As people connected to the church and connected to Christ we are able to not only hurt each other greatly but help each other heal. We have the gift of God’s grace and His forgiveness to us that lead us in the ministry of reconciliation. While my heart still aches when Christ’s church fails each other, I remain tremendously encouraged that each time is an opportunity to have conversations with people about forgiveness, healing and the truth that Christians are sinners, too. The difference is we know it and depend on Christ to overcome it.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18