I’m posting this under the category, “Books that Changed Me”. When I created that category, I didn’t intend it to be for books I had written. But I suppose it goes without saying, every book you write changes you. This one was certainly no different.
Depending on whose statistics you use, anywhere from 15% to 40% of Christians today would say they have been wounded deeply by other Christians. Think about that. That is an enormous percentage. If there are 100 million Americans today who claim to be Christian, that means that somewhere between 15 million and 40 million would say they have felt genuinely betrayed by their Christian brothers or sisters.
That betrayal coming at the hands of the church is among the deepest emotional and Spiritual pains imaginable. After all, the church is supposed to be a safe place for us, a place where we are genuinely loved and accepted even with all our flaws and shortcomings. When betrayal comes from there, it comes from the last bastion of Spiritual safety we know. It cuts deeply and it renders us Spiritually (if not emotionally) incapacitated for a season in our life. You may be one of these wounded saints. If not, the chances are high that you know one.
The question this raises: what is the church’s responsibility for responding to these dear friends?
The reality is that the pews (or chairs, or benches) in your worship center are often filled with people hurting from this very pain. They were hurt deeply in another church and left there and are now in your church. And they brought all that baggage with them. What they want most is to just sit in the back of the room and be invisible for a while. They’re fairly certain they will not re-engage actively in church again…after all, that’s how they got hurt in the first place. But something in them tells them they do need to be here. So they come and sit quietly, hoping to remain anonymous. But they are not healing. They are not growing. And having studied these very people for some years now, I can tell you unequivocally that time does not heal these wounds. A person can go for decades without ever dealing with these injuries and without ever even coming close to healing. The only way healing comes is when that person decides to embark on a healing journey.
This, it seems to me, is where we (the church) can help. We can provide that journey. We can prepare an environment for them which is safe and accepting of them. We can give them a place where they can tell their story and cry and read God’s Word and slowly begin to trust Him and His people again. And we can give them each other, i.e., help them know that they are not alone and that there are others who know their pain well because they have experienced it themselves. They can carry one another’s burdens and pray for one another for a while and they can go on this healing journey together. The church can provide that.
Now here is where the possibilities get pretty exciting. What do you suppose might happen in our country if we were to bring genuine healing to 15 million to 40 million Christians and re-energize them for ministry? Could you get excited about that? I have.
© Blake Coffee
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3 responses to “Trusting God’s People…Again”
I guess the rub here, Blake, is that if one has been wounded in his or her own church, it would be difficult, then, for the wounded to share his or her story to other members of that church without causing further schism. Even in the most confidential of settings, I would imagine that some burdens are best not shared with fellow congregants.
Lori- Agreed. There are certainly some circumstances where it is very difficult to find the God-honoring way to move through one’s pain. But in every circumstance, I believe it is important to find a way to express that pain. To someone who has felt hurt by his/her own church (where he/she still worships), I would want to strongly encourage him/her to go to the person or person(s) who caused the pain and find the right way to say “Ouch” AND THEN to forgive. Otherwise, that pain just sits there and, eventually, becomes a spiritual and emotional obstacle. It doesn’t just go away over time.
Blake – If 15-40% of Christians have been hurt by other Christians….does that mean that 60-85% of Christians are hurtful to their brothers and sisters in Christ? wow. If we’re not one of these wounded saints, the chances are not only high that we know one, but that we may be one of those who caused the hurt. You’re absolutely right about engaging those of our body who have been injured in an effort to help them heal, but at the same time we should be guarding our own hands and tongues to see that we are not doing or saying ANYTHING that might cause injury and thus thwart our own efforts. The beautiful thing about love is this; LOVE is the greatest prevention against hurt and also the greatest salve for it. If only we could follow Jesus’ last commandment……….