Not too long ago I filled out an alumni information form for the Christian school where I graduated. They were celebrating 40 years – a great accomplishment! Of course, these things tend to cause a great deal of retrospection and introspection. And, as I thought about those days, I was reminded of many who grew up during the same decades and what has taken place since.
If you ask many who attended Christian schools in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s you may hear a consensus of anger and, in some cases, that has turned to bitterness regarding their time in a Christian school. At the very least, there are tinges of derision, resentment, or scoffing. This also can be said of churches during that same time. How do I know this? I see it on Facebook and message boards. I hear it in conversations. Why?
The argument will be “that church” or “that school” did X.Y.Z. to me. Who did/do they think they were/are telling us how to dress, live, conduct ourselves? They let this group get away with ____ but when we did it they lowered the boom. (Yes, it did happen. No, you didn’t imagine it. Inconsistency is possible by anyone… just ask your own kids.) Some will say that they (authority) did not follow God’s Word; they twisted God’s Word to make us do what they wanted.
I graduated from high school in 1985 and from a Christian college in 1989. I grew up in a fundamental Baptist church and in the years since I have remained in and served in fundamental Baptist churches. I have been accused over the years of “drinking the Kool-Aid.” However, if those accusers would have spent a little time talking to me instead of accusing me they would have seen that simply was not the case. The “Kool-Aid” wasn’t what was important. Seeking truth from God’s Word IS important.
In our ministry, we see the worst of the worst in people… monthly, weekly, sometimes daily… often when things are at their darkest. We have dealt with pastors and their families who were utterly devastated by “their people”, usually deacons, sometimes other staff, occasionally a group of disgruntled members. We’ve heard what these “godly” people have said to the pastor’s kids and wives. We’ve seen how these men and, yes, sometimes those “sweet Christian” women, have gossiped, gone house to house and business to business as talebearers, and out right lied about pastors, their wives, and their kids. We have counseled with preacher’s kids and their parents who have said, “The CHURCH hurt me. I don’t want anything else to do with it.”
We’ve also dealt with those who feel they have been bound and chained by the do’s and don’ts of a “dictatorial pastor”, a “tyrannical administrator”, etc. We’ve heard every story possible of “all the financial problems a pastor has caused a church”; how these pastors have “hog-tied them and won’t let them serve.” We’ve heard people say that they need to get rid of the pastor (authority) because they are hurting me. We’ve heard people say that they will be in control; the “next” pastor just needs to “preach”. Or, we’ve seen some simply leave (quietly or not) to go to churches where there are no rules, no standards, no responsibility, no confrontation of sin, or where “we just don’t see interpret those passages the same way as you”. More and more often, however, people are leaving church entirely. They all claim that the church (or institution) has hurt them.
I have had a long time to think about this, to examine it, to pray and seek God’s face on the matter. The “church” or the “school” didn’t hurt you. Those are simply institutions… made up of people… including you. The problem wasn’t the schools; it wasn’t the churches. It was people, individuals, the imperfect. And doesn’t that describe ALL of us. Imperfect.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that have helped me when others have hurt me or when I think I disagree with leadership. Maybe they will help you too.
- GOD’S WORD is the final authority to anything and everything that I do. It is my ABSOLUTE. Many say that they see certain scriptures differently than someone else does. Know this: that thinking is called “relativism” (a philosophy that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them). Relativism in the church has mixed God’s Word with our opinions or thoughts in an attempt to compromise so that everyone can “get along” in “Christian love and fellowship.” It is a worldly philosophy that slithered into Christian thinking; it is destroying churches, families, and individuals. 2 Peter 1:19-21, We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
- PEOPLE are imperfect which means they may do something that will hurt me at some point. Sometimes those who teach and guide us will hurt us. Sometimes a co-laborer, a fellow Christian may hurt us. Many times they are unaware of what they have done. Psalm 55:12-14, For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
- FORGIVENESS is essential. We may never confront those who have hurt us, but we must forgive them. In the parable of the king and servant in Matthew 18, the servant owed a debt that the king expected paid right away. The king granted leniency. The servant then went to those who owed him and showed no leniency, no mercy. The king was appalled when he heard and delivered the servant to the “tormenters” until the debt was paid. When we continue to live in bondage, anger, and bitterness for those things done and said to us, we trample on the blood of Christ Who forgave us. Matthew 18:33-35, Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
- FORGIVENESS is not a one time thing. Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother when he sinned against him. Seven times? Matthew 18:22, Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
- FORGETTING isn’t easy, but it is necessary to move on. The saying “forgive and forget” is nice, but the two do not come hand in hand. It has been said that forgiveness requires remembering graciously. In other words, remember the hurt without added anger and bitterness. Learn the lesson, use the lesson to help others, but don’t dwell. Don’t allow Satan to use past hurts as a tool to halt your walk with the Lord. Philippians 3:13-14, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
- AUTHORITY isn’t always right, but submitting to that authority is protection in God’s plan.
- As a parent, I have not always made the best decisions, but when it came to my son, I expected him to obey whether I was right or wrong; it was his God-given protection. Ephesians 6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
- As a wife, I have not always agreed with my husband, but regardless of that, I am protected through obedience to my husband. He is the one who will answer to God for what happens with our family. My responsibility is to submit graciously whether I understand the decisions he makes or not. My submission is an example as to how we as Christians are to submit to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
- As an employee, I don’t always agree with the policies of the boss or company. But, they are the authority. If I’m going to keep my job, I will follow those policies and do what I am asked to do. Why? Because I am serving my Lord not man, and am a witness for Him. Ephesians 6:5-8, Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
- As a church member, I may not always agree with how things are handled in the church – finances, policies, standards, etc. At these times, I ask myself if it is something from which to separate. If so, then I leave, move on – quietly. If not, then I keep my mouth shut and happily serve my Lord. I also pray for either understanding on my part or a change in the heart and actions of the pastor. How can I do that? I know that I am not going to be the one to stand before the Lord for the happenings of the church. The pastor is. Hebrews 13:7, 17 (7)Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. (17)Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you
The cause of Christ has suffered enough at our own divisiveness. We have much to do in these last days and it cannot be done when brother fights against brother, when hurts are harbored, when accusations and judgments are flung. The testimony of the church as a whole has been harmed. We no longer are salt and light to this world. It is time to forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those things which are before, by pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Photo credit: Melissa Woltmann