Tag Archives: Forgive

Church Hurt

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When Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, I wonder who got paired with Judas. I wonder who it was who healed, and preached, and cast out demons by Judas’ side.

I’ve never really thought of it before, but these men were together for three years, on a journey that would change not only their lives, but the course of human history. These were the men who would start the Church, who would eventually give their lives in defense of the Gospel. And they all went through boot camp together; they all witnessed the genesis of Christianity together.

My brother just went through Air Force training and he told me that he made friends in his barracks that he’ll have for the rest of his life. You don’t go through that kind of intense training without forming bonds.

Imagine what the disciples must have thought when it was Judas who left the table during the Last Supper. When Jesus said one of them would betray Him, they all asked, ‘Is it I?’ not ‘Yep, it’s Judas, isn’t it?’ They were surprised by his betrayal. They were surprised to see him leading the Roman cohort into the garden.

Most of us have received a nasty surprise like that from someone we considered a fellow soldier. It would seem that no one can wound quite like a Christian can. We don’t have to study the social media very hard to discern that the world’s opinion of us is that we are all judgmental, self-righteous hypocrites.

And this turns people off to the church. In fact, I know Christians who have left the church because they’ve been hurt by other Christians. They even have a term for this: church hurt.

Everywhere you look, you’ll see people who do not want to serve Christ because they know a Christian who has sinned.

May I just say… this is such a sad, weak excuse.

When Judas betrayed Christ, did the disciples stop following Him?

Well, yes, actually.

They took Judas’s betrayal as a personal threat and they ran for their lives, for their own comfort and self-preservation. And by doing so, they betrayed Jesus as well.

They ended up participating in the very sin they condemned.

But in the end, all eleven remaining disciples continued to follow Christ. Why? Because they followed Christ. Because it is all about Jesus. Because Christianity is all about having a relationship with Jesus.

 Judas’s betrayal hurt, I have no doubt. But his sin didn’t make Jesus less worthy of devotion. Leaving Jesus because of Judas wouldn’t make any logical sense.

I know it can be argued that the actions of a misbehaving child reflect poorly on the parents. Following Christ should spark an obvious life change and when it doesn’t, we’re tempted to think it won’t work for us either.

But anyone who’s ever dealt with children (ages 0-99) knows that when free-will kicks in, all bets are off. It doesn’t make sense to follow Jesus one day and wander off the next because of the actions of our brothers and/or sisters, not when the prize we’re after is a relationship with our Father.

Please don’t get me wrong, I know it hurts. I’ve been hurt by people in the church and I have dear friends and family who have been hurt by people in the church. But that’s when we should run to Jesus, not away from Him. He’s the one with the comfort we long for and the forgiveness we need, for ourselves and others.

Those people’s sins are more against God than us anyways, and I’m sure that if we each dig deep, we’ll see sins in our own lives that were just as shameful. In fact, it could be that we’re mirroring the very sins they’ve committed: judging the judgmental, gossiping about gossips, lying about liars.

Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect, and it isn’t about having a safe haven full of love and rainbows and acceptance where we will never get hurt.

Being a Christian is about being in love with Jesus. It’s about loving and following Christ and loving those He’s commanded us to love (*everyone*). No matter what they’ve done to us.

Let’s take hurt out of the church by keeping our focus on Jesus.

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Seeking Our Own Justice

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Yesterday I talked a little about the importance of reconciling with others as taught in Matt. 5:23-25a. Today I want to finish the passage by looking at 25b-26:

“Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

I find it so interesting that the end consequence here is that the judge will find me guilty if I do not settle with my brother on the way. Even if I have a seemingly legitimate case, the verse says I will be ‘thrown into prison.’

The plain in simple reason for this is that I’m guilty. Regardless of what the other person has done, no matter how justified my anger feels, I’m the one who will be put into prison.

There is no such thing as a one-sided argument. In a fight, both people are guilty, even if it’s 99.9% the other person’s fault. James 2:10 says:

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

So as soon as I indulge a bitter thought, I’m just as guilty as the other person.

Will the judge be throwing the other person into prison as well? That’s between them and the judge, their heart and God. My job is to love and forgive them and to do what I can to reconcile the situation (Rom. 12:18).

I can’t keep them out of prison; that has to be their choice. But I can love them on either side of the bars.

At the end of the last verse, I noticed something else: ‘you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.’

The trouble with a debtor’s prison is that there’s no way to earn money and pay off your debts. You’re stuck. On your own.

This is what happens when I try to win justice for myself. When I try to step out of God’s will and purposely disobey Him so I can hold onto my rights to get justice for myself, God lets me. But I’m on my own. He will not help me in my vendetta. Vengeance is His (12:19) and He’s not going to hop aboard the ‘Leah Gets Even Express.’

When I refuse to forgive and strike out on my own to settle the score, I’m essentially saying that God’s forgiveness is not good enough for that person. And if it’s not good enough for them, it’s not good enough for me. Without God’s forgiveness in my life, I’m left to ‘pay every penny’ myself.

Also, I’m not trusting God to make things right. He has the situation under control and He knows where that person is headed. If I have been wronged, I can trust God to be faithful and help me, whether I ever get my idea of justice in this life or not.

Jesus’ message through these four verses is really very simple. And He has these commands in place for our benefit just as much, if not more so, than for the other person.

We are called to forgive so that we can enjoy close fellowship with the Lord, live a fruitful life, enjoy peace, stay out of prison, have someone else (Jesus) pay ‘the last penny’ for us, and generally just love and be loved. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is. And with Jesus’ help, it really isn’t. 


Leaving Our Gift at the Altar

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The other night, I had the privilege of participating in a small group discussion of Matthew 5 and I wanted to share a few things I learned.

The specific Scripture passage was Matt. 5:23-26. I’d like to break the passage in half and look at verses 23-25a today.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court.”

At the beginning of the passage, we can see clearly that holding a grudge against our neighbor hinders our relationship with the Lord. We are told to not even present an offering before Him if we are in the midst of conflict with another person.

Whenever I am refusing to forgive someone, that is typically a sign of pride in my life. It’s evidence that I think I’m better than the other person. “How could they do that to me?” “I would never do anything like that.” And so on. It’s pretty hard to stay mad at someone after I’ve accepted that we’re all on an even playing field.

Pride and unforgiveness are sins, and sin separates me from God (Is. 59:2). Because God commands me to love and forgiveness, I have to willfully choose myself over God in order to hang on to my right to be angry and/or hurt.

When I do that, I’m not walking fully with the Lord. There is a rift in the relationship and it taints all the ‘offerings’ I want to present before the Lord.

This command can provide an ideal stall-tactic if I let it. The idea that I have to make things right with my brother/sister before offering gifts to God can easily be twisted into the idea that I have to calm down and come to grips with that person’s actions before moving on. And that can take a while.

But the very next verse warns us to ‘settle matters quickly.’ There’s a very specific time frame. I do not have permission to dawdle here; I am called to get a move on and speed towards reconciliation. I know that can be hard sometimes. After all, time is a great healer and it often behooves one to take a ‘time out’ and cool down.

I do not, however, have license to shelve the problem and worry about it ‘tomorrow.’ Eph. 4:26 warns me not to let the sun go down on my anger.

Besides, if that anger is keeping me out of the presence of the Lord, then I should want to get rid of it as soon as possible.

A final note on these verses: I think sometimes we can get too caught up with our gifts and forget what’s really important. I often stride proudly to the alter with my blog post, church attendance, Scripture memorization, tithe check, etc. But that’s not where God’s heart is.

He values the people. Loving others, as He loves me, that’s the real gift.

If I don’t have love, I am nothing. (1Cor.13:2) 


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