For the next several days I will be working on a new book project. During that time I will be posting some excerpts from the previous books. We begin with a chapter from “Bring’em Back Alive – A Healing Plan for Those Wounded by the Church”. This chapter is called “Your Bleating Heart Will Tell On You” and it deals with the uncomfortable truth that sometimes we choose to remain in victimhood.
Many people go to church with the hope of finding a place to finally belong and fit in. They were the kids who dined alone in middle-school. They were the people who hated phys-ed because they were the agonizing last pick for a team or they felt embarrassed to undress around the “jocks”. They might have been the one who sat home depressed on prom night or were rejected for membership by a fraternity or sorority on campus. Then you hear about this thing called Christianity and how everyone is part of a body of believers that love and share together. It sounds too good to be true (and sometimes it is). The reality is that the church is the same collection of personalities that you struggled with in high school, college and beyond. Sorry.
Nonetheless, we feel a profound sense of betrayal when a person in the church lets us down. It really does cause a hurt disproportionate to the size of the wound when it is inflicted by someone we know and trust. The Psalmist described the feelings in this passage.
This isn’t the neighborhood bully
mocking me-I could take that.
This isn’t a foreign devil spitting
invective-I could tune that out.
It’s you! We grew up together!
You! My best friend!
Those long hours of leisure as we walked
arm in arm, God a third party to our conversation.
Can’t you feel the pain of the writer? Haven’t you been there at one time or another? It’s you! It’s not Bob the Backstabber or Gertie the Gossip. I would have been ready for that. It’s you! My best friend…or so I thought. It does hurt disproportionably to the apparent size of the wound.
We endure hurts and wounds that wouldn’t happen if we were all living according to the example and teachings of Jesus. But allow me to let you in on another little factoid. We don’t always do that. And perhaps a more vexing problem is that some Christians are wholly convinced that they are following the teachings of Jesus yet they wound others through their actions. I would encourage you to examine their actions through the lens of God’s Word. Perhaps part of your healing process will require finding a flock that properly balances doctrine and grace. You already know from comments in this book how seriously I take any decision to leave a church. As a general rule I follow the belief that I need to be directed to another flock instead of church shopping whenever I am offended. But I will allow that a church environment that will not encourage your restoration and healing might require a change of flocks. A church that is abusive is not a place that any sheep should be…let alone a wounded lamb. Any shepherd that does not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ will require you to seek a new flock. I would encourage you to review the checklist that I included in Chapter 2 of Bad Christians to help evaluate the merit of trying a new pasture. The grass isn’t always greener but it may be more nourishing in some cases. But I must leave this topic with a word of caution. Please pray, be still and listen and leave with grace and dignity if you must. Burn no bridges and wound no sheep (or shepherds) as you exit.
…to be continued