There are days I don't really feel like going to church, especially now that the temperatures are below freezing, or worse. It never used to feel that way. I used to be so excited, going to church early in the morning and staying late into mid-afternoon.
I volunteered all over the place. I was a youth leader, I went to classes and meeting, mission trips and conventions. I'm not involved that much anymore, much to the delight of my wife. So, what happened? What happened to all the excitement I once felt in going to church? Well, I got wounded, wounded by my church.
Has that ever happened to you? Things were going along just fine when suddenly, out of nowhere, a rumor got started or somebody stabbed you in the back or there was a difference of opinion about the design of the bulletin or the style of worship music creates some tension. So what do we do when we are the victims of "church abuse"?
Well, the first thing hat popped into MY head was to leave. Obviously we've been hurt. It's us against the church. They're bigger than us individuals and aren't going to change. Might as well blow them off and find a new place to worship, right? Let me tell you this. Churches are filled with people who used to belong to other churches.
To tell you the truth, after I got hurt, I did look around. There are lots of churches out there, each one thinking they have a better idea, a better way of "reaching the lost" or "engaging our community." All that's really nice and probably matters to somebody with a seminary degree or an MDiv. None of that really matters to the extent we'd like to think it does. I'll tell you what does matter though. God and neighbors.
The Great Commission. Come on, you know what it is.
"37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:37-40
Love God, love others.
"Yeah, but so-and-so really hurt me."
What part of "love others" do we not understand? It doesn't say love everyone except those who hurt us. Do we forget about forgiveness? And how often are we supposed to forgive someone? Once? Twice? Even though they might be wrong and we are right?
"21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times." - Matthew 18:21-22
I have chosen to stay at my church and I'll tell you why. It's not the pastor or his "vision." It's not the style of his sermon or the number of members in the worship band. No. It's the people. I love my brothers and sisters and I would never leave a family member just because of how I feel. We're family. We're all a bunch of sinners saved by the same savior.
This past Sunday was a perfect example of how a family sticks together in both good times and bad. I listened to a women from my small group who had gone through a messy divorce. She experienced a lot of pain and still has many open wounds, yet she met someone who makes her happy and I celebrated with her as I listened to her telling the tale.
I felt compassion as I listened to a young man tell me about the struggles he has been going through. He too had experienced a divorce and was trying to meet the needs of being a single dad with four mouths to feed besides his own.
A couple fought back tears as they anxiously awaited news from their daughter who had fallen ill while on a mission trip in Africa. How would they get her home? How could they take care of their precious daughter from thousands of miles away.
My church family is a good family. We have differences of opinion, just like any family does. But we stick together when times get tough. We don't abandom ship. We are family. We all have the same Father. We who believe are part of one large family. We have been given the right to be called children of God. Where else can we go to find a more loving Father than the one we already have? Nowhere! Let us rejoice in what we have been given for we have been truly blessed.
"60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?" - John 6:60-68