When the church breeds more pain than love, it is very easy for me start a movement against the institution, and I find no lack of recruits. Thousands of us find a natural ease in locating both beams and splinters in the body, the leadership, and the organization itself. The sheer number of those who feel like I do gives a justifying satisfaction to my position. It makes me wonder how I could be wrong in trying to destroy and expose the authors of my pain. I often think up visions of ministerial grandeur centered upon exposing the wrongs that have been committed. I find raging within me a personal vendetta against the injustice to the point of actual consumption. It becomes all I think about, my pain and personal injury begin to define me. My mind swells around thoughts of saving souls from the church instead of saving them from hell.Pain is consuming. Its a hog, an unnatural feeling that leaves us looking for someone to blame. It leaves us reeling drunk on the mistakes of others. My mind can get clouded and overcast with doubt, I find myself desperately reaching for any truth opposite to the theology that hurt me. I swing to the other side of the pendulum out of sheer rebellion to the misuse to truth. The image of God in my situation becomes like an abstract Picasso that is left to individual interpretation. In these moments I long for clarity, but all I feel is revenge.Yet what I don’t realize that in my ministry, my family, my relationships, and my outreach, I leave a residue of division everywhere I go, even though I claim to preach love. (Though the love that I preach, would most likely seek to cover the multitude of sins that I am trying to expose.) I begin to boycott the Bride of Jesus because of the spots in her gown, not generic spots, but the spots that also tarnished my life. I can be so selfish that I do not care about restoration, the warrior inside me only wants retribution. I start to see myself as a spiritual superman sent to save the world from the “kryponite” of the church.
If I slow down on my vengeful rampage, stop collecting followers to my cause, I may see that Jesus Himself caused offense to people in His life. Leaders will always disappoint. I have met atheists that used to be Christians walk away from the church because they were disappointed by God. If God Himself can produce such a pain and disappointment in people then what is left for the minister?
If I believe the love message as much as I say I do I would realize that the love I preach is not only for my enemies, (those in leadership that hurt me) it is specifically meant for them. Why am I more willing to give love and cover the sin of the minority, to the poor, to the homosexual, but not the fallen pastor? Sure, I say to myself, “Oh I am not glad that he fell, I am just glad he has been removed.” This shows that I am not placing myself in his shoes. Would I want restoration? Would I want everyone to give up on me? Very quickly I see that I am hurting them as much as they hurt me. Often I will preach that we are not to fight fire with fire, all the while I keep my matches handy. If I am to be a son of God I must look into the mirror and see that the spirit of my life has been dipped into the vat of bitterness and blame. I must begin to see that pain is a door way to Resurrection not a trap door into offense and accusation.
It is not how I am able to process pain but more about how I allow pain to process me. Like it or not I must admit that whatever has been done to hurt me, I also have done to Jesus. While we were yet sinners, His enemies, and His accusers, Jesus died for us. I wonder if I would be willing to die for the man who betrayed me instead of tyring to build a blog to expose his errors? It is my experience the the Holy Ghost leads into all truth and if I have seen the error of the theology, then I must rejoice that I have been freed from the error through the pain. At this point I am free to pray for the release of those who are still bound, not set my life’s course to behead their ministry. It was pain that opened my eyes, and for that I must thank my enemies and praise God for them. My enemies have become my greatest teachers, much like Christs enemies helped bring salvation to the world through the pain of the cross. The true desire of a Son of God in my situation of betrayal would be to sincerely and intensely fast and pray for their release so that they too can experience liberation.
When I have had a revelation of the ugliness of the church I must be very careful how I proceed. As a leader I can either cause more division or I can exhort others to unity. I can spread the fire or I can put it out. The book of Proverbs says that the Lord hates the sowing of discord amongst the brethren. Whether they are right or wrong it is not my business. Jesus command to me was to make disciples and preach the gospel, not expose those who do it wrong. I become mature when I understand that God uses donkeys. Sometimes I see ministries that I do not agree with and instead of seeing the beauty of a brother who is trying to serve the Kingdom of God all I see are his errors that personally offend my position. When my theology becomes more important than my brother who is in error, I am just as religious as those who hurt me.
Its funny to me as I have seen over the years many people severely hurt by a church or ministry and yet dozens, if not hundreds or thousands have been blessed and eternally changed by the same ministry. It is pretty arrogant of me to think that if this church hurt me then it is taboo for everyone else to. I am not the savior of the church, this is not my bride, and if I see clearly enough I should be able to trust God with what He calls His, even if I disagree with what He allows. Even if God does remove a man from a position we should seek to be neutral and pursue the preaching of the kingdom, not to continually kicking a dead horse.
In Revelation Jesus comes to correct a church that is wrong. Unlike me, He focuses more on the good that they did rather than the problems they had. He tells them ten things they did right and only one thing they did wrong. He told them that they had left their first love. They had left the love that gave them the ability to bear with a sinful brother, they had left the love that gave them the ability to cover a multitude of sins, they had left the love that suffers long, that endures all things, that is not easily provoked, that thinks no evil, that does not rejoice in the sins of others, and a love that bears all things believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. When I take this love into context with my pain, I have to wonder if I left my first love too? Right and wrong are a poor substitute for love, likewise knowledge of good and evil is a poor substitute for the tree of life. Is what I am feeling and preaching bringing life? Or is it perpetuating the wrongs of others? What is the good news of that? This is a perverted gospel…much like the one that hurt me.
The Spirit of Truth in me will teach me that all men will fail me, and when they do I should not blame them, but help them and forgive them. My time would be better spent proclaiming the beauty of Jesus instead of the ugliness of the institution. When I do things this way people will be so attracted to Jesus that they will naturally pass on the fake.
One day while I was pondering my pain and the pain that I had caused others, I was reminded of the verse that says, “By His stripes, we are healed.” God spoke to me and said, “My Sons scars remind the world of healing, yours remind you of your pain. When your scars remind you more of your healing than your pain, then your healing will be complete.” This blew me away. I realized that the wounds in my life were not healed. I also realized it is impossible to get off the planet as a Christian without ministerial wounds. For me to continually demand the perfection of the church was to demand an imposibility. My wife and I have issues once and a while, yet I do not run out the door to take my marbles and play somewhere else. We should not be this way about the church either. I know so many people who miss a blessing becuase they wont attend church becuase of past pain. Yes, it risks being venerable, but without it I will never see the love of the body. The pain I have caused God has not stopped Him from being venerable to me, I feel in order to be like Him I must return the favor to my brother, whom I can see.
So, today I embrace my pain as an old friend, because without him I would still be in the dark. It was the pain of the cross that brought the Resurrection that we celebrate. If I want a new resurrection in my life I must be willing to forgive and embrace the unpopular message of pain. I finally see that it was necessary to be hurt by the church for it was the only way I could really identify with Jesus. I no longer want to be defined by my pain but by the image of Jesus. It is time for me to love what Jesus loves, even if it means loving the thing I used to blame and hate. Love cannot be compartmentalized, it must conquer all.