How do you respond when you get hurt in church? What do you do when things that shouldn't happen in the church DO happen?
Furthermore, what do the people around you do? What does the culture of your local church tell you that you should do?
Related: Read the first post in this series, “When Going To Church Hurts,” here.
Most importantly, what does the Bible say you should do when something that shouldn't happen in the church DOES happen?
When you get hurt in church, your response is a really big deal. Of course, your response should always be godly. But sometimes people will tell you that a certain response IS godly when it actually isn't. For that reason, we have to search the Scriptures for ourselves so that we can distinguish the holy from the profane.
responding rightly can set you up for a quick healing.
On the other hand, not knowing how to respond rightly sets you up for further woundedness–even if the situation is a one-and-done-type thing that only happened once and doesn't reoccur. The damage can continue if you don't know how to handle it.
So how do you respond when you get hurt or see something bad happen in church?
Today, I'm going to talk about what I believe is the very first step. It's a first step that, again, people don't tend to talk about very much. But that first step is:
1. Discern right from wrong based ONLY upon what the Bible says.
Here's why Scriptural discernment is so important:
Sometimes people will do bad things and call them good.
They may not say so publicly, but they will believe the bad thing is actually good. They will even do bad things outspokenly in the name of God. Saying “God told me to do this,” or some other such thing.
But you know what? Jesus said that, in the last days, people will even kill others in the name of God. John 16:1-3 says:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me” (John 16:1-3).
Whoa! That's a horrifying passage.
Jesus told us in that passage that people will kick you out of the church and even commit murder–doing it in the name of God. They will do these things to you and tell you it was God.
And since Jesus is clearly describing people who have the authority to put you out of the synagogue here, and who have the power to kill you, that means we can expect even leaders and people in positions of power over us to do terrible things to us in the name of God.
Yuck. That's definitely one of those prophesies that nobody embroiders on a pillow. 🙂
Yes, people in power both inside the church and outside its walls will persecute Jesus' disciples.
They'll do it in the name of God. Think Saul, before he became Paul. He was “a Pharisee of the Pharisees”–and he killed Christians left and right, all in the name of God.
Sin is sad, isn't it? It's horrifying and heartbreaking, and seeing sin in any form should make us long for Jesus and His new heavens and new earth even more.
But back to my point.
When people do hurtful things to you, they may be sincere … but their sincerity doesn't matter.
Sincerity does not holiness make.
Just because somebody is sincere or genuinely thinks they are right does NOT–I repeat, NOT–make them right.
Even if they are in a position of power.
Even if they are your pastor.
Even if they are your worship leader, a deacon, an usher, a Sunday School teacher, or a parking lot attendant.
You know what makes any action by anyone right?
God's Word. God's Word, and only God's Word. The entirety of God's Word, taken in context and combined with the REST of God's Word.
I'm serious about that “taken in context” and “the entirety” thing, too. That's important, because sometimes people will pull one verse out of the Word, take it all out of context, IGNORE everything else about the Word–including the Person of Christ. If they do that, they will claim that their action was God when actually it wasn't … and when their error would have been obvious if they had bothered to consider the entirety of Scripture.
I realize that it may sound like I'm on a bandit-hunt here; on a rant.
But, I'm not. Not at all. I AM, however, trying to get people healed from church wounds so that they can live, prosper, be restored. I'm trying to help people defeat the devil who wants to steal a right relationship with God's church from them. I AM trying to help people get back in church.
I am NOT:
- anti-pastor; or
I'm actually very much pro-local-church and pro-pastor (and happy as a clam about it). Nevertheless, I'm dealing with a sticky subject here, so I'm trying to address it as thoroughly as possible. In order to do that, we simply have to address truth …
… which brings us to our next key:
2. After you discern SCRIPTURALly, you must acknowledge and face the truth.
This can be hard for some people for various reasons. The most common ones I see are:
- Perhaps you love your pastor so much that you don't want to believe he/she would do anything bad.
- Perhaps your church's culture tells you that it's not okay to disagree with the pastor; because, after all, you need to submit to authority.
- Perhaps you are afraid to believe or stand publicly against the mainstream, knowing that people who do so are called “Jezebels” or “rebellious” or “ambitious” or “starting a storefront curse” or “bad news” or some other such derogatory term.
- Perhaps you are afraid to acknowledge the truth about your leaders because then you would have to either do something (which would not go well) or leave the church, and you don't want to go through misery OR leave the church.
There could be other reasons, but those are some pretty common ones I see and hear about. Regardless of the exact reason, it can be really tough to go against your habit, culture, peers, etc and actually face the truth, fair and square.
But it must be done.
Half of healing is simply acknowledging that what was done to you wasn't right.
You cannot heal IF:
- If you're trying to convince yourself that what people did to you was right, when you know the Bible says otherwise.
- If you're telling yourself that surely your pastors couldn't have been wrong.
- When your culture tells you that you cannot, may not, must not disagree with your pastor (despite what the Bible says).
You can only proceed to the next steps in your healing if you face and acknowledge the truth of God's Word. Sometimes that truth is that YOU were wrong, and sometimes that truth is that someone else was wrong.
It's important to remember that you might have been wrong.
I am not writing this article to exonerate anybody or teach you how to point the finger at anyone else. Sometimes the truth that looks back at us in the mirror is an ugly truth. Sometimes we really were wrong. When that's the case, we need to go to whomever we hurt, confess our sins, repent, confess to the Lord also, and make things right.
Also, remember that it's sometimes necessary for our spiritual leaders to correct us.
This is biblical and right IF it's for biblical reasons, and if it's done biblically. Correction is not always bad. It can hurt, yes; I've been corrected before more than once, and it stung every time. But, correction is still necessary sometimes.
Related: Correction Is Not Spiritual Abuse
If you were wrong and you repent and make things right, that's usually where healing happens. You don't usually need an extended healing process if you just get right with God. You just move forward and grow in the Lord, and everyone loves you and understands.
The extended healing process that I'm talking about today is usually only necessary when people at church do things to you that are wrong and sinful. Those are the waters that can be so difficult to navigate.
But before we continue navigating those waters:
Here's a word to the wise about “pastor worship”:
I've had to repent for pastor worship before, and I learned a little thing or two about it from that process. Here's what I learned:
If your pastor or church expects you to agree with the pastor/church even when they contradict the Bible, that pastor/church is asking you to worship the pastor instead of worshipping God.
Don't you let someone tell you that agreeing with the pastor when he's in sin equals “honor” or “submission to authority.” If they expect that, they are setting that pastor up as an idol in the place of God–and asking you to worship the idol instead of God. DON'T DO IT.
You have to face the truth, fair and square.
Remember that Jesus said:
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
It's the truth that makes you free. The truth:
- At all times;
- In all circumstances;
- In every way;
- Every kind of truth.
Yes, we should still love everyone–including the person who hurt you at church. But lying to yourself about what happened and what inspired it (e.g. a sin or an unholy spirit, belief, or attitude) doesn't help anybody. Whitewashing things is a lie, and whitewashing things only keeps you from healing.
In my next blog post, we're going to talk about what to do after you have faced the truth about church wounds.
I'll provide you with the actual prayers you can pray to walk through healing with the Lord. But for today, would you:
- get alone with the Father;
- ask Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you in His Word;
- search the Scriptures; and
- ask the Lord to show you the truth about the situation you endured?
I will be praying for you.
If the Lord is speaking to you about healing from church wounds through this series, would you please leave a comment below? I would love to hear what He is doing in your life to heal you.