This post is months in the making. It has been rolling around in my brain for a long time. I think many of us need to hear this.
I have the great opportunity, if I word well here, to help heal hearts. I have the even more likely opportunity, if I word poorly here, to offend and alienate many people I care deeply about.
What to do. Well, be obedient to the God who has gifted me with the desire and mediocre ability to share what He has placed upon my heart and trust Him and my friends for the rest. So… here goes.
I love my church family. Over the past several months, I have been reading my “On this day” in history Facebook posts. I have seen just how often I have posted that exact phrase. I love my church family.
“Church Family” is a two part phrase.
Church. My church is filled with human people. Sinners you might say. People who come together in the body of Christ not because we are perfect, but because we need His perfect, redeeming grace to cover our hearts and actions that are all too often not bent to His will. Without the redeeming grace of Jesus, we would all be lost. But we are not perfect. We hurt one another. We get angry. We say things that we shouldn’t, true or not true. We are all fallible.
Family. Family is weird. Family is the group of people who have your back when no one else does. They say you can’t choose your family, and there is indeed some truth to that, even when we talk about “church family”. In every family there are members you adore that make you laugh, who you call or text regularly, and members who you… don’t. You have that one aunt, cousin, sister, whatever that irritates you. You love them. You know you’d still do whatever you could for them. But man, you just don’t really like them all that much.
Put those together and what do you have? Yup. A hot mess.
I started attending this church of mine 15 years ago. My only real church experience. And I was amazed at that wonderful, giving hearts and fell in love with the people. Oh how I love the people. Over the years many have come and gone, but still, they are family. Family. And as such, we have the ability to hurt one another more than any other group of people, including to some extent your “legal” family (for lack of a better description).
See, I thought people at church would always be kind and loving to me. And me to them. I thought that Christians would just be nice to each other. I mean, sure, I knew we weren’t really perfect, but we’d be kind to one another, right?
But that’s just it. We expect perfection of each other even though we expect to be forgiven for our imperfections. We don’t expect our church family to be rude to us, exclude us, dislike us, spread rumors about us, judge us. But we sure do it, don’t we?
I’ve been hurt by my church family. But the bigger question is whom have I hurt? I’ve seen so many people leave over the years because they’ve been hurt. I’ve watched a pattern unfold. People come. They jump in with both feet. They get involved. They work. They pray. They laugh. They love. They get hurt. They leave. They find a new church. Wash, rinse, repeat.
So as I soothed my broken heart, I cried out my pain to my Jesus. I asked him to restore my heart. I saw all these old posts about how much I love my church family. I remembered. I believed. I realized that none of us is innocent. We’ve all done it. I began looking at myself and saw times I’ve been hurtful. Many times unintentionally so, but I have been. I’ve judged. I’ve accused. And I’ve opened my heart to look around my church. Oh how I still love them. I don’t have to like all my family to love them. I don’t have to like all my church family to love them.
People we love will hurt us. It will happen again. And again. How do we deal with this? Do we give up? Go to the next family to love us until they hurt us? Does this sound familiar? We live in a society of divorce. Not just marriage. Relationships. We just leave them when we are done. We don’t want to try to fix them, we move on.
Please, please, please do not hear what I am not saying. There are times when divorce happens. There are times when God calls you to another church. Let us not allow our hurt feelings to interfere with the message here.
God is calling us to restore and heal our relationships. Guys, we Christians, how? How are we to show the world the love of God if we can’t get past our own hurts. I’m not perfect. I have been so hurt by people that I consider family. But I have since realized, or perhaps more accurately am in the process of realizing… That I am just as guilty of hurting my church family in my actions, attitudes and comments as those who have hurt me. I could give up and walk away. It isn’t that I haven’t thought about it. But it is a cycle. It will happen at that church over there. Why? Because we have all sinned and fallen short, right?
Guys, love. That is what God asks of us. Love. Love Him. Love one another. Love those that hurt you. Love.