I’ve been a long time attendee of only several churches in my life, but two churches have impacted me deeply, for better and for worse. Unfortunately, those same two churches also hurt me and I have had to face the pain and learn how to deal with it.
I didn’t really think much of it till I asked myself a fateful question: which church did the worse deed? The church that turned their backs on me without a second thought? Or is it the other church that left my father jobless? One left me with emotional pain, but another one affected me and my family. It’s difficult to say which one hurt more because I shed many tears over both. I thought one church couldn’t be worse than the other but I realized that they’re both severely flawed. In all honesty, both churches failed me.
However, looking back, I can say that I’m honestly thankful for what both churches taught me. It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened and move on because there are good things about those churches too. I have had to focus on the good I’ve found in them to keep myself from becoming bitter. One church gave me beautiful friendships that have stayed steady in the face of such awkward transitions and painful moments. Another church gave me a foundation in faith that has remained solid even when I doubted its stability. Both churches gave me wonderful memories, even if it used to be difficult to admit it.
In the end, only one church apologized to us. They were remorseful but we’ve come too far to go back to how it used to be; the most we can do is now move forward. However, their apology changed my perspective of them. I no longer viewed them as cruel or unforgivable. I saw them as humans making mistakes, regretful and ashamed of their decisions. Even then, there are still times where the anger and pain hits me out of nowhere like a tsunami at the hint of a memory. Those are the hardest moments because I have to forgive all over again, especially when I don’t want to. But I’ve had to allow God to heal me and help me forgive them. It’s a daily struggle to do so, but it has slowly gotten easier.
The other church never apologized, but the reality is that the one church did what was right when it came down to it. Was it the resolution that I wanted? No, but it was probably the best one. It was the one that I most likely needed most.
It’s no wonder people leave churches or abandon Christianity all together, citing everything as bogus and hypocritical. It’s because we’re doing it all wrong. Churches are filled with messed up people and that’s how it is because there’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, but if we remain messed up then something’s not right. I know the human race is a sinful mess, but we’re Christians. We shouldn’t be letting our flesh take control because we’ve been given the control. Backstabbing and gossip shouldn’t have such a prominent place in church. We are not supposed to allow ourselves to be divided so easily, but that’s what the enemy wants. A house divided cannot stand, and he knows that if he can split us up then we have no chance of standing together. We need to recognize these tactics for what they are and stop them before they start.
Enough of this “We’re only human.” That’s just an excuse to make more mistakes and hurt more people. We are children of the Most High God, and we need to start acting like it! Saying we’re human does not excuse our behavior. Saying we’re sinful does not excuse our hurtful words. We are human and we are sinful, but we’re not supposed to stay that way if we truly follow Jesus. We have to start from within the church’s walls and learn how to love those people who are among us. I believe that if we can’t treat those within the church properly, then how are we going to treat those who are new to the faith or the congregation? You can’t reach the lost if you have no idea how to treat those within your own four walls.
So why do churches hurt people? I’ve asked myself this question countless times and I still don’t know the answer. All I know is that it comes down to people and sin. People hurt people and churches are made of people. It’s a natural outcome, but we are called to be more than natural. In the end, I can’t say I know why churches hurt their own. It doesn’t make any sense, but I do know this: The Lord is with us, holding us as we cry. He feels our pain and He understands it all. He offers peace and healing so we can trust and love others again. He will take care of us and if we’ve been wronged, God is our advocate. However, He can’t do anything if we insist tying His hands up by trying to do it all ourselves. One way we can do that is forgive those who’ve hurt us, step out of the way, and let Him do the rest of it. He has to be allowed to take care of us.
When the church hurts, forgive then move on. However, don’t let what happened in a church to keep you from trusting and loving people. Don’t allow the fear of being torn apart or let down by other people stop you from reaching out. It’s not worth it because if we do that, then we give into what the enemy wanted and we miss out on people that the Lord wants to bring into our lives. We lose both ways when we hang onto that fear and hurt.
So if a church hurts you, don’t let it stop you away from going to another church or seeking after God. Not all churches are the same. Each one has its past and a laundry list of faults, but there is good in churches, specifically found in the people who love without reserve. That is how I found the good even in the churches that hurt me. That’s the proof of the redeeming power of God. What is meant for evil and even what causes us pain, God creates goodness out of it.
If you’ve ever been hurt by a church, I am so sorry. I truly am. I have had a taste of what it’s like, and I deeply wish you did not have to experience that pain. But I also desperately plead with you to understand that the church as a whole didn’t hurt you; the people in that church did. It hurts and trust me, I know. However, they’re just people. They are not an accurate reflection of God’s love and grace. There are those who are trying to set the right example, but then there are people who don’t care. That’s not God; He cares.
Humans are flawed and churches are full of holes. But our God is so much stronger and more loving than all of that. There’s a God who loves us despite our mistakes; the bad stuff that may happen in a church is NOT Him. God chose to love a scrappy, unworthy human race. There’s a promise in that. And that’s where our hope lies: when we have deep wounds and many tears in the aftermath, He is there. He patches up our wounds and wipes our tears away. He loves us more than we ever could imagine. There’s no one more kind and merciful than He. So even when the church may hurt and the world may rail against us, we’re not alone.