Tag Archives: relationships in church

Have you been hurt by the church?


disappointment.

There are many people who have been. Just like there are many people who have been hurt by families, businesses and various organizations. This was in my thinking as I wrote down…

Sabbatical reflection 7: In our experience of the church here on earth we will always be hurt like in any relationship that matters. We will be hurt precisely because the church and our relationship to it (them) matters. We will also be hurt because we all love conditionally and if our conditions are not met we tend to get upset. Experiencing hurt in the local church should not be surprising and is very seldom a valid reason to leave a particular local church.

The church is a gathering of people with whom we have relationships. These people are all sinners – some redeemed some not. And so as in all places where sinful people gather there will be people hurting each other. This should not surprise us. But it will surprise us and we will be unable to deal with the hurt if we are self-centered and conditional in our love of others.

I think we should encourage each other with the words of Paul in Philippians 2: 1 – 8, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider (value) others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of the others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (used to his own advantage),but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

But at the same time we remember the same Paul’s words, as he struggles with sin and what God requires of him, in Romans 7: 15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” And so we should remember that not only will we be hurt, but we will also be those who hurt others. It is inevitable. Let’s not be quick to leave a church just because we are hurt because it will happen wherever we go – another church or even away from church. And anyway wherever we go we take ourselves who will eventually hurt others anyway.

Instead of running away we should use these opportunities of hurt to grow in biblical love as in 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8(a) (and these attributes only grow in the context of circumstances where they are hard to exercise), “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

Instead of running away we should use these opportunities of hurt to grow in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5: 22 – 23(a) (and this fruit only grows in the context of circumstances where they are hard to exercise), “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

Even though there are some circumstances when it will be wise to leave a particular church, I think it is true to say that those who stay and work biblically through hurt will grow much more than those who run away from it.

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Reflections on 1 Timothy – chapter 5: We are family!


The study translation Bible 2009

It is important to be passionate about the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone as taught by Paul God’s appointed spokesman as Paul has been teaching us (see previous reflections on 1 Timothy below). But we must remember that the church is not just an evangelistic organization but a family with some key relational responsibilities. And that seems to me to be the focus and tone of Paul’s teaching in chapter 5.

Paul actually started the letter with that tone in 1: 2. And we must always remember that we are God’s adopted and dearly loved children with many other brothers and sisters who are equally loved. And this mindset should dictate how we treat each other in the family of God.

And so Paul starts by saying that Timothy should be loving, respectful and pure in the way he deals with the different groups in the church 5: 1 – 2. This would of course then model to others as to how they should behave in the family of God. The end of verse 2 is a powerful counter-culture way seeing dating!

Obviously a problem in Ephesus, 1 Timothy 5: 3 – 16 deals quite extensively with how widows are to be helped when needy. In Ephesus there was a list of widows needing help (not a bad idea), but just being a widow didn’t get you onto the list, there was to be a proper selection process (these principles are very helpful for all needy people in the church). And really the bottom line is only those really desperately in need get onto the list. So here is how it was evaluated:

  1. Were they really in need? If so they got help (3).
  2. If the widow was really in need but had a family that could care for them then the family should do so and not be on the church list (4 + 8 + 16. Isn’t verse 8 hectic?).
  3. Younger widows (in the case of the Ephesian church anyone under 60) should not be on the list they should rather consider working to provide for themselves and/or look to marry again (9a + 11 – 15). That doesn’t mean they can’t get some help until that happens but it did mean that they must not be put on the list for regular help.
  4. Not unlike with church leaders (chapter 3) there are character traits for the kinds of widows put on the list. Paul is not looking for perfection but for widows over 60 who have a reputation for being:
  • Godly (5 – 6)
  • Faithful (9)
  • Known for good deeds (10)
  • A good mom (10)
  • Hospitable (10)
  • Servant hearted (10)
  • One who cares for others (10)

What happened to the widows who didn’t meet these requirements? Well, I don’t know what actually happened at Ephesus but in keeping with the rest of the New Testament it wouldn’t surprise me to find that they got some help but they just would not be put on the list for regular help.

And then, talking about widows, leaders and character lists… look after the elders (dads) in the family. Honor them! Honor them, especially the preaching/teaching elders, by paying them well so that they can focus on teaching the family the Word (17 – 18). Honor them by being careful with the criticism that will inevitable come against them because they are leaders (19). But honor them and the church by responsibly exposing sin if it is found in them (20). All of this would be easier if the position of leadership was honored by being very careful of who was appointed to leadership (21 – 22. Refer to 1 Timothy 3).

It takes a lot to effectively run a church as a family passionate about what God is passionate about. What will help is if we love and respect each other like a good family; be strategic in how we encourage Christian care; set aside well paid, great leaders to equip the family of God from God’s Word to do all this! If we do that our passion for God’s passion to see everyone saved will be couched in the best possible context… a truthful, loving family.

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