Friday, 1 August 2014

Taking my place in the line of People Hurt by The Church

Hello world.

I have unsettled conflict in my life. This time of year is never good for me because I'm the sort of person who should sleep from mid may until mid August. The skies are clearing though and I've decide to approach a few topics on my blog - this one, about getting over hurt and another about making change... which I'll get to later.

I know a lot of people who have been hurt by the Christian community. Usually we just call in The Church (caps because Church=the entire Christian church), and usually The Church has done something to wrong us.

The Church's list of nasty things it has messed up and around for me is long. I've worked for one Christian organisation or another since I was nineteen. I have been part of one church or another (no caps, its just church in general) since forever. Let's look at some truths here.

1. We are all saints and sinners. 
This is part of redemption. Now, I could go into Grace and Law and a whole heap of wonderful theology here, but I won't.  The fact that we are both good and bad makes the situation really sticky. We have two expectations - 1) we will know them by their fruits and 2) we're all children of God. I love the Gospels though because Jesus, bless His heart, is always helping his disciples see the error in their ways without being a jerk about it.

The sticky situation often comes about because we are a jerk about it. Planks and splinters, or something like that. Too often we forget our own role of saint is only because Jesus redeemed us to be in relationship with God, through grace. We want to help people see the error of their ways without being real about our own issues. That leads to a crushed spirit, and for me, Miss Tender-hearted, a crushed spirit is where I am hurt the most.

2. Church is a challenging environment.
Stand up, sit down, listen to the preacher, say 'amen' or 'preach it' but not anywhere too traditional, it might go for forty five minutes to an hour, sometimes we have worship flags/banners/drums/dancing/communion/we even hold hands and make a circle.

Churches are strange to walk into, sometimes difficult to adapt to and often hard to navigate. I'm prone to getting in trouble for talking, I bring my Bible when it is for some reason unnecessary, I stopped dressing up for church in cool clothes a long time ago.

Church is not one size fits all, despite everything they attempt. Be prepared to be unprepared for church.

How church is makes it difficult for us to appreciate it at times. In the best of times, church is community who celebrate and cry and sing together. At the worst of times, church makes you feel almost trapped and sometimes a bit used up. There are rosters. There are things you're asked to do which take away your time from your loved ones.

Having said that, there are plenty of other places like church. You can get over and under committed in just about any organization. The difference tends to be motivation. For example, working with a theatre group you are working to have a stage production completed in a certain amount of time - good for everyone. Church wise - you're bettering the kingdom of God by being on the offering duty every week. And if that doesn't sit well with you, please see point number one, Saint/Sinner.

3. Church life connects people from all walks of life. And that's weird too.
The story of Christ and the hope and peace the message brings to us attracts people from everywhere. We are all broken in one form or another, even if we don't admit (or know) it. Church should break down class and stereotypes, but it doesn't always.

Theology and philosophy is different from person to person. What you believe will be different to another, and also, what you believe now may change dramatically. The things we hold near and dear to our hearts bring the most pleasure and pain.

What I decided on my longish drive home today is that the hurt I have isn't entirely to do with The Church or even a church. Here's what it boils down to:

About a quarter of my hurt, or prickles as I like to call them, is actually about Christian organisations. This is do do with their structure, their ethics and behaviour as an organisation as a whole. People have time and again tried to infiltrate their system to no avail. Bearing that in mind, I'll put it down to a bad experience and poor judgement.

The rest of my hurt has do so with the first point I made - saints and sinners. As I am so often told 'if you've been hurt by the church, get in line'. The problem with this is some of the hurt has to do with things that happened a long time ago, some is more recent and all of it - yes, all - has to do with people who are not part of my life and haven't been for a long time and don't even speak it. In fact, some of the people declined my Facebook invitations. Take that, the double rejection. Ahh, the pain.

I've used 'long time' a bit now'. I think I have seen where the problems lie - planks and splinters, but also, good intentions. It's often good intentions that crush spirits, right when they don't need to.

What am I to do though? Biblically, check it out:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17).

I think sometimes I have got through that process and failed at a point and never retried again. But I'm now at a point where the only hurt I'm carrying is my own.

The last line of that passage talks about treating the person as if he/she were a Gentile and a tax collector. I had always thought this meant that the offending party were to be ignored and treated with contempt. Of course though, Jesus loved Gentiles and tax collectors and a whole bunch of questionable characters. This leads me to believe, with some gentle guidance, that if the resolution process doesn't work, treat them the way Jesus would - with love.

Frustrating, yes; Biblical, I hope so.

So what will I do about it? I need to acknowledge it, forgive the person and move on. Clearly the people moved on after they said it, and I'm still carrying around the hurt with me like a teddy bear with prickles. Next time, and there will be a next time, there always is, I will be more discerning and discard it once I've dealt with it.

This makes me feel so much better. No, really, it did.

I only have one question of you, dear reader. Don't be so callous to remind people that they're not the only one who feels pain. Sometimes, most of the time, they don't need reminding.