Please feel free to join this discussion. I am very interested in the thoughts of others on the subject.
I have read a number of blog posts on the subject of "Church Hurt" in the past week. It kind of freaked me out that they all seemed to come out of the woodwork at once. Then I realized that "freaked out" feeling was the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart.
I have been thinking about "Church Hurt" all week, and it finally hit me this morning, while sorting out my feelings on a minor incident that resulted in hurt on multiple levels: the church itself - the administration, the leaders, those in authority - allow the church to become a breeding ground for hurt when they create an atmosphere in which its members are discouraged from thinking for themselves.
Am I saying this is the only possible situation that can result in "Church Hurt"? Not at all. There are as many potential scenarios for hurt as there are people in a church. But this is the one I have seen the most closely, and so what I am going to discuss today.
Pride may be one of the ugliest things I have ever seen. When combined with the attitude of "I know it's true because my ___________ (pastor/deacon/ss teacher/highly respected Christian friend) said so," it sets a dangerous precedent in creating an environment not suitable for anyone with a strong desire to grow in Christ and His Word.
For those who don't know (or even those who do know, as I can almost guarantee that you "know" through what you have "heard," not through a personal discussion with me), I endured my own "Church Hurt" several years ago. This occurred at a time when I was being particularly harshly lambasted by Satan as I grew closer and closer to God in my personal walk with Him. Satan was doing everything he could to keep me from my Father, and as he has no boundaries and certainly no conscience, he even used members of the church to contribute. Ultimately, I left the church of my own free will, probably much later than I should have, although in defense of that, I naively believed people would "come to their senses."
My own experience with "Church Hurt" was a direct result of equal parts pride (I would never do anything like that!), refusal to study the Bible and think for oneself (the pastor says it, so it must be true!), a love of and to gossip, and outright lies (pride again? a need to be accepted by the larger part? I'm honestly not sure.). ALL of these things, in this particular situation, resulted from a church environment where members were expected to take all teachings as absolute truth, were not encouraged to study and learn and enrich their hearts through their own studies in God's Word and conversations with other godly teachers and individuals outside the church leadership, and were strongly discouraged from any type of humble questioning and discussion, even when done with the right attitude - rather, if questioning occurred, the individual doing the questioning automatically had a bad attitude or was straying in his/her walk with God.
And by the way, yes, everyone was encouraged and expected to have individual time and studies in God's Word, but if this study resulted in anything not an exact duplicate of what the church was teaching, then the reader did not have the right attitude or was not listening to the Holy Spirit.
Where to even begin with that... it could be a blog post all on its own. To determine that a person was not listening to the Holy Spirit simply because his/her Biblical studies do not match your own or question your own... I shudder at the thought. May God's mercy and grace help me each day to NEVER be that kind of wife or mother or teacher or friend.
The truth is, we are all sinners, equal in God's eyes, none of us worse or better than any other. He loves us all the same, and all of our sins are as filthy rags. There is no mention anywhere of rags any filthier than others.
So why do Christians continue to judge others based on the severity of their (at times perceived) sins?? I just don't get it. To behave that way does not proclaim to the world that you are saved by grace. To behave that way shouts that you believe you have done something to make you more worthy, and that the person you are criticizing is somehow less worthy of God's mercy and forgiveness and love than you.
I learned A LOT from my "Church Hurt" experience. Mostly I learned to be much, much more cautious with who I trust, which I will admit has been detrimental in some ways. Because by "cautiously," I basically mean that I trust no one outside of about three people. I also learned something very important about standing up for myself and my own beliefs, even when doing so makes me an outcast in the one place that is not supposed to have outcasts. More than anything else, I learned firsthand the truth in God's promise to never leave nor forsake me.
I would like to end by asking - beseeching, even - any of you who have ever heard anything of anyone through someone not the subject of the conversation, that you 1) end the gossip right there by confronting the relayer of information and refusing to pass on the information, and 2) approach the person who is the subject of the gossip, if you have questions about the information. Not doing so only hurts every single person involved, and often more than anyone else in the chain, the subject of the gossip.