Sadly, the most defining times in our lives are behind us. Dark storms from yesterday still manage to rain on our parade. People we blame, still find a way to come into our lives, even if only in the form of an unwanted memory. If only we had a historical crowbar to pry these moments out of our lives, then we would be at peace, and God would have nothing to work with.
I am constantly in awe at the human condition, both within myself, and others. The emotional immaturity at times is staggering. Lashing out at theologies that hurt us, pressing the “like” button on anything that condemns the one that hurt us, and posting in the thread line, comments that only prove we are living in yesterday. While God is always looking to the future we are still kicking the dead horse of the past. I understand working through pain, but after a degree of time has passed, maybe the fact that we are still stuck on what happened is more of a reflection upon our inner condition, instead of outer circumstances.
There are times in our lives where pain and violation is very real. Things like rape, murder, physical abuse, emotional rejection from parents, drug and alcohol abuse, and realizing the pain of having an abortion, are things that must be dealt with slowly and compassionately. But then there are other times, times where our selfishness was offended and the pain we feel is only imagined. Times where we misinterpreted the moment and built a case against someone who really cared. This happens a lot within the family, long about the time kids turn into teenagers. They misconstrue the intentions of their parents and label them something they are not. This is all to common in the church.
To allow times like this to cause offense in our lives is a great waste of time. It is never okay to blame my spiritual immaturity on the care and concern of others, especially the Pastor. I understand the pain that happens in church. I have been involved in the institution since I was a child. I have also watched the church murder itself due to its inability to see small offenses as the hand of God administering healing for the areas of our lives that are out of touch with the nature of Jesus.
Pastors get a bad rap. Yes, I know that there are some really bad ones out there. I have sat under them, and do not blame them. But for every bad pastor, there are thousands of bad congregational members. Both are needed. The church was never meant to be a place where we could come to find perfect people. It was to challenge each other to grow into the nature of Jesus. Sometimes that means getting our feelings hurt and dealing with it. To fail to realize this is the main problem with Christians today. There is a joke that underscores our fickle nature. “A ship captain noticed a hut on a uninhabited island deep in the pacific. After coming to shore, a man ran up to the Captain and said, “Thank you! I have been all alone on this island for five years!” “All alone?” asked the Captain. “Then why do I see three huts?” The man answered, “Well that’s easy, I live in one, and go to church in the other.” “What about the third hut?” The Captain asked. The man answered, “Oh, that is where I used to go to church.” Left to ourselves we will find division even when there is none to be found.
As a pastor I have been accused of control. Of course, as I went on in my life, I realized that you can really say this about anyone who actually cares. It is easy to disregard the message if you can disregard the man bringing the message. Is there control in some churches? Yes. Are there people in church that scream control, when there is none, because they are spiritually immature? Yes. The point is not to blame either position, but to realize why we tend to hang around our own past with the same sour emotions that we had years ago? We say we are growing but at times I wonder.
After reading Jesus’ words, I began to feel differently about the past in my own life. I have to admit that my personal feelings about a Pastor that I had in my past, had caused me to reject the message that he preached, when the problem wasnt the message per say, it was how I felt about the man. Jesus told His disciples to obey the teachings of the Pharisees, but to not be like they were. I realized that there was a degree of value in my former pastors message, but the problem was how I felt about the beam that I thought I saw in his eye. The more I grow in Christ, the more I realize that to see clearly to remove my brothers beam, often means not even touching it. If God was faithful to expose my own beams and splinters, I trust that He will do the same to those in my life. My failure comes when I look at those who “hurt” me with their theologies, as enemies. This never was, nor will be, the nature of Jesus. God continually presses me to the question, “Would you die for them? Would you give up your life, hopes,dreams, and family, for their success, like my Son did for you?” This question “rights” all the wrongs that they have done to me, and puts me into a spiritually challenging position. To consider this means that I have to let go of my new theologies and past views of my life. The person becomes more important than the past. Would I choose them as God chose me?
If God were like us, He would constantly click the “like” button on everything that is opposite to our life. He would make His point on social media and in the presence of His new friends. He would make sure that everyone knew how much “that church” or “those people” hurt Him. His posts would reflect His pain, instead of His forgiveness. Yet, He does not do that. Yes, if God treated us how we treat our “enemies” there would be no hope for anyone. We expect others, especially pastors and leaders, to be perfect, when they are not, then we are hurt, and we crucify them. In reality, it is quite possible, that if we were put into their past, and lived their life, we probably would have done things the same way. We never know they battles that a man or woman go through. Why can’t we be thankful that at least they are trying? At least they are out there attempting to make disciples. At least they are making an attempt, which is sometimes more than their accusers can say. Armchair saints, who do not give their lives for the gospel, are always quick to accuse those who do. The disciples also did this. They heard of someone preaching in the name of Jesus who did not follow Him. Jesus said, leave him alone. If he is not against us, he is for us. Paul said, that there were a great many people who preached Jesus for the wrong reason. (Never mind that if a pastor today said this, that he would be crucified for being judgmental.)Yet, Paul did not focus on the wrong in their doctrine, He said, at least Jesus is being preached.
It is funny to me how forgetful we are. Some of the same people who have so many negative things to say about me, are the same people who through tears told me how much I had changed their life, and the lives of their children. The same people who sat and confessed their horrible sins and thoughts to me, that I never leaked to the public, were willing to take my smallest faults and bring them to the world. The same people who hurt me and I overlooked the pain, are the same people who can’t seem to return the favor. Everyone is evil enough to be put on trial and be found worthy of hell. No person is righteous enough to stand pure outside of the blood of Jesus. Yet quite often, we demand that people do just that.
I long to see a church embrace its wounded, its pastor, regardless of his minor issues. I long to see people actually be like the Jesus they say that they love. To forgive, to overlook sin for the sake of love, to bear with, to belive in, to hope in, and to stand by someone who is struggling. Yes, if you are in a church where there is actual abuse, then leave. But trust me, I have been in this thing long enough to know that most “problems” arise because people hear what they want to hear, instead of what is really being said. They misinterpret the issue when they have decided to not like the person who is speaking. It is not prophetic if you can only see the dry bones in someone’s life. God’s true prophets will always see an army. If I can’t see the restoration, then I am not prophetic, I just pass off my negativity as a cheap substitute for prophecy.
Why not let the past go? Why not let the love we say we believe in cover a multitude of sins? Peace would return and vision would become clear. Maybe, just maybe, God allowed all of this to happen? Who then is really to blame? Maybe the blame falls on me, as I do not yet know how to process pain?
Our life is in front of us, not behind us. I will not find true peace until everyone in my past is covered in the forgiveness of Jesus, and is labeled by my mind as a friend, who I am thankful for. Maturity tells me that when I get close enough to love someone, they will eventually disappoint me. Immaturity demands that no one ever hurt me, especially leaders. Facebook “likes” are weak, they don’t change anything. Gossip or division doesn’t save anyone from anything. The blood of Jesus is for us all. If I want it for my life and my mistakes, I should want it for my neighbor as well. I want to feel about others the way God does, not the way my past does. Until this happens, I will remain living my life through the lens of yesterday.
Today’s glory, needs not to be diminished by yesterday’s darkness.