Friday, February 12, 2010

Loving People In The Church After Being Hurt

Have you ever been hurt by someone in the church? Another brother who should have known better? Betrayed? We all know Christ felt the sting of betrayal. David did, too:

“For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. …My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.”
Psalm 55:12-14, 20-21, ESV

David is heartbroken over a familiar friend who used to worship with him in “God’s house,” who has now turned against him. This betrayer has “violated his covenant.” How painful!

Jesus warned us of tares growing beside the wheat until the harvest. Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus that wolves would arise from within their own local church, to gain a following for themselves (Acts 20:30).

This betrayer described in Psalm 55 and personified in Judas Iscariot is a biblical picture of the OPPOSITE of how God has called his people to relate to each other. This is an example of what NOT to do. God has called his people to be faithful to one another; to LOVE one another. The hard truth is that we will all let each other down; we are not in our glorified bodies yet, and we still stumble in sin. We will all, unfortunately, say something stupid or do some thoughtless, careless thing that will hurt our brothers. That is why God has called us to love, and forgive.

The Holy Spirit puts ‘members of the body’ together as he sees fit; he places believers with diverse backgrounds and differing personality types together in one local church – on purpose. God is teaching us to love and to forgive. How else can God teach us these lessons without allowing us to get hurt by others? He is bringing us to the image of Christ, who forgave those who hurt him.
But when we get hurt, we go into defensive mode. We build walls; we distance ourselves from our brothers. We either isolate and drop out of the life of the church, or we stick around – but at a distance. We simply do not want to be hurt again. But we cannot love without making ourselves vulnerable. When we tear our walls down and open ourselves to love, we are also opening ourselves to the possibility of being hurt. But that’s ok. God knows that just avoiding pain is not the highest purpose for us. Christlikeness is. He still wants us to tear down the walls and open up to our brothers and sisters. To dare to love. And if we are hurt…forgive.

Look at the amazing call for God’s people to love one another; a call that goes all over the Bible. Note carefully words like “brotherly affection.” Rather than betraying one another, here is God’s plan for how his people are to relate to each other:
  • Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess. 5:11
  • Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart 1 Peter 1:22 (since you’ve made it to brotherly love, now take that love to the next level – earnest love for each other. We are not called to tolerate each other, but to sincerely and earnestly love each other!)
  • Love one another with brotherly affection Romans 12:10
  • Let brotherly love continue. Heb 13:1
  • Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind    1 Peter 3:8
  • but through love serve one another Galatians 5:13b
  • … because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3
  • We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. 1 John 3:14
  • that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love… Colossians 2:2a
  • By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers 1 John 3:16
What do you do when you realize that you have built up walls and are stiff-arming our brothers and sisters?
1. Admit that what you are doing is a sin; a great violation of God’s law of love.
2. Admit that your focus has become selfish; you are practicing self-preservation instead of self-denial for the sake of Jesus.
3. Repent. Confess this sin to God, believe that Christ has fully paid for it at the cross, ask God for help and grace to set your heart towards obeying him.
4. Ask the Lord to fill you with his Spirit and all the fruit the Spirit brings (number one is love!).
5. ACT on your faith and repentance. Immediately confess this to another brother or sister (whatever is appropriate) and consider sharing with the church what God has done in your heart, asking the body to pray for you. ACT on this by reaching out in love to the brothers and/or sisters you have shunned. Act now while the Spirit has placed this freshly on your heart.
6. Fill your mind and heart with God’s word concerning love for his people.

May God be pleased to tear down our walls and fill us with forgiveness and love for the people of God!

…God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).

1 comment:

These Three Kings said...

very in close community like we are supose to is always hard..but soooo worth it!
great post!