That said, we must remember that the church is the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ — a people set apart to declare God’s praises to the nations and called to become more like Him. We shouldn’t be surprised by hurt and pain in the church, because every member of the church, the Body of Christ, are just people. People fail. People get caught up in their selves. We fail each other and we fail Christ. The Good News is that He is faithful to heal us, to grow us, ever perfecting us!
Phil 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. This scripture isn’t just for me, or just for you but to everyone that is seeking Him and His ways!
So, what do we do when we experience church hurt? What should be our response? I know some who have taken hits from the church and are still reeling from it, years later. Now, they either stay out of fellowship altogether or hop from church to church, hoping they will fit in. The reality is that until we deal with the hurt, we don’t allow ourselves to fit anywhere! How sad that is and what a tragedy for the Body of Christ! The body needs us, we need each other to function as a whole!
These are just some steps that I have learned through Holy Spirit as He led me through the healing of church hurts. I don’t claim to be an expert theologian, but want to share with you from my heart what has helped me!
1. The first thing we need to do when under the crushing weight of Church hurt is to seek Him who will never hurt us, reject us or abandon us! Get in the Lord’s presence and take the hurt feelings, the offense to Him! Spend time with God just resting in his love. Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Not only rest in His presence but get in His Word! Read and meditate on the Bible, even if for just a few minutes each day. It’s like eating. What counts is every single day getting what we need to get through that day. Knowing God’s word will help us as we process hurt and find truth to satisfy. The more we are centered on God’s truth, spoken in love (Eph. 4:1-16) the more we will mature AND the more resources we’ll have at our disposal to heal from hurt ourselves and to avoid hurting one another.
2. When we become offended, when that fiery dart pierces our armor, we have to learn to face the situation head on, be courageous, and to be transparent. We are to confront the offender. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus says, “If your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Many times, the whole situation can be resolved by just confronting the person who has hurt you. Sometimes they don’t even know that they have hurt you. Whether they receive it or not, whether the situation gets resolved or not, we are less likely to gossip and slander the offender, if we have had the strength to confront them with their offense. Keep in mind that this is to be done in love and that we must be willing to hear some hard things about ourselves too! When dealing with hurts committed against you, it also might be a good time to address those that you have hurt. Maybe there are some people in the church you’ve hurt, and you need to get it cleared up. I had to do this very thing. Holy Spirit revealed to me that the reality was that while I was a victim of church hurt and offense, I personally had hurt others! Matthew 7:3 Jesus says, ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” We need to address the issue head-on. Let’s follow the way of Christ in this!
3. Forgiveness is key to healing from church hurt! Forgiveness isn’t easy! In fact as a Christian, I find it one of the hardest things to do! Forgiveness is a choice made in and by the spirit. The Lord has made it very clear that we’re to follow Christ and make the choice to forgive, but then when we listen to our feelings, our emotions, that choice becomes much more difficult! We have to let the spirit of God rule and reign over our feelings! I had to learn to forgive one day at a time. For instance, I’d wake up on Monday and confess forgiveness, but then Tuesday would roll around and I was still wrestling with the hurt. I had to purposefully stop replaying that hurtful scenario over and over in my mind. I had to separate the sin from the person, and allow myself to love them. I had to learn to forgive every day until I had completely forgiven the wrong. I know it’s hard, but the truth is that forgiveness is not optional for Christians. Jesus says, “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:15). This is difficult to hear. Remember all the wrong that you have caused against God and remember that you have been forgiven. Forgiven people forgive!
4. Passionately, sacrificially, and deliberately persevere in pursuing Christ-like discipleship both discipleship for you and your discipleship of others. Stick to it, do it on purpose, be determined to grow! When we are faced with betrayal or disappointment, perseverance is required — supernatural perseverance. Learn. Grow. Forgive. Repent. Repent some more. Fight the good fight. Urge each other on. Don’t give up meeting together. Don’t let the enemy separate you from the Body, don’t retreat into isolation. Trust that the good work God is doing in you and in other believers around you will ultimately be for the good of all who believe in Him.
5. Love anyway. It may seem impossible, but it’s the call of every Christian in every situation. In the end, only love will abide (1 Cor. 13:13). And without love, our lives will be meaningless and unfruitful (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Love as if your life depends on it. To love someone is to seek his best. I can love someone without even liking them. I have found many to be frustrating, but still genuinely and truly want what is best for him. Love isn’t avoiding tough conversations or life-on-life accountability, but we must do those things from a loving, humble, gracious, and patient position personifying the mind and heart of Jesus. He said you could tell his disciples by how they love one another (John 13:35), and so we who are loved by him love each other in turn — even through the darkest, most difficult times. If you have been hurt by the church, remember that it will probably happen again! We’re human, and we make mistakes. When hurt happens, don’t run from the church. Just walk through the above process, letting Holy Spirit take you by the hand and lead you and then repeat it again! One day soon, we will be in the place of no more hurt. Until then, however, let’s commit to keep moving forward in forgiveness.
Of course, none of these steps will make your church experience or relationships perfect. But these truths will change how you process the pain, and learn to handle offense in the way of Christ/ They will change your life. And eventually, by God’s grace, they will change your church, too. I hope this helps someone! Be blessed!