Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Church Hurt


This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.  Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.  For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” – 2 Corinthians 2:6-9

I once heard a statement made in Sunday School conversation that has stuck with me like an ancient proverb: “there’s no hurt like church hurt”.  But church people don’t like to talk about “church hurt”.  It’s like the dirty crumbs in the corner of the room that we just sweep under the carpet as we welcome visitors in.
It’s not hard to understand why church hurt is such a huge problem.  We come together in a local church body as a family.  We share in each other’s lives, learn together, fellowship together, and raise our children together.  We develop relationships that are built on intimacy.  And yet, let one of us slip up and do something un-church-thinkable, and suddenly we’re held accountable to a measure even far greater than God has placed on us.

Time and time again I’ve seen it.  The church turns its back on someone.  Maybe it was a DUI, maybe it was a divorce, and maybe it was some other issue that we just measure is beneath us as a church.  We jump up on our soap box, bring the rest of our righteous members up there with us, and look down our noses at the one who has fallen.  Oh, family of God, be careful how high you build your soap box!
God grants us mercy and forgiveness, but the church grants us judgment and punishment.  We’re supposed to walk according to His example.  But for some reason, when it’s within our local church we feel compelled to act as judge and jury and are quick to exclude the member from the fellowship either through formal or informal ways.

In 2 Corinthians 2 Paul warns against this kind of behavior.  He says “you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest he be swallowed up with too much sorrow”.  There are thousands of church members who are at home every Sunday rather than attending church because of this sorrow.  And those church members have family members that side with them as well, and sit home. And their children will one day have children, and they will not attend church either because of the deeds done to their grandparents years before that broke fellowship with the church.  Knowing that, is it worth it?  Is it worth your feeling of righteous condemnation to turn away so many from Christ?
Paul goes on to warn that we should forgive “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.  When we are called to love one another even as Christ loves us, and we do anything contrary to that, we walk away from Christ.  Oddly enough, that’s what most of those hurt at church have been declared guilty of, and yet we do the same.  We just sin differently.  Satan then gets the opportunity he waits and lurks for in many churches – an opportunity to cause a division.  Oh how his mouth just salivates at the opportunity to break up a loving church, and turn children of God against children of God. 

Don’t be ignorant of his ways.  If you have hurt another church member, your entire church is suffering because of you.  Your brother or sister in Christ is hurting because of you.  And perhaps it wasn’t you that caused the hurt, but you can mend it.  MEND IT.  Swallow your pride, albeit a bitter taste, reach out in love and bring back into full fellowship those that are hurting.  That’s what families do. 
Perhaps you have been hurt by a local church, or someone close to you, and you’re now left without the intimate relationships of church family.  Don’t neglect the body of Christ as a whole because of one group.  Not all God’s children are the same, and not all that claim to be His children really are!  The greatest loss you can face in life is not the loss of church fellowship, but the loss of fellowship with Christ.  To keep that relationship strong, you need the care of a good church family, and they need you.   Don’t let satan subject you to so much sorrow.  Move on.  Let go of the hurt.

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