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.