“I love God, but I don’t always love the Church.” You’ve probably heard someone say some variation of this, or maybe these words have been true for you. Church is made up of people–and people are notorious for being hypocritical, judgmental, and imperfect.
Fellowship with other Christians is essential for spiritual growth.
A healthy spiritual life depends on gathering with others to serve, teach, learn, encourage, and challenge one another. Church is a place where we find fellowship and community. But church is so much more than that.
In Ephesians, Paul refers to the church as the bride of Christ, being bound to him by a covenant of unity. As humans, we were literally created to function best around and with other people. We’re instructed to
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
In the book of Genesis, God declared that it was not good for man to be alone.
To even further reveal this truth to us, God hardwired the need for social connections into our brains. Dr. Robert Green, a professor of neuroscience, agreed, “We’re beginning to see a striking aspect of the brain … that brains are wired for social interactions” (See: Social Brain Wiring).
So, if the church is the bride of Christ, why are there so many people who feel disillusioned, hurt, and unable to connect with its community?
Organizations, whether secular or religious, are made up of flawed people.
We often, even subconsciously, expect moral perfection from organizations, though we don’t hold individual people or ourselves to this same impossible standard. As we grow in our faith, we gain a deeper understanding of grace and our inability to earn it. We see how futile our efforts at perfection really are. And when we understand how little of God’s grace we could earn through our own merit, it becomes easier to see how God, in His mercy, can use even the most broken for the good of the Kingdom. And it becomes easier for us to extend grace to others, no matter how unmerited.
But this doesn’t mean we should overlook the problems that exist in the church.
As we have acknowledged, the church is full of people, and people are complicated and contradictory and sinful. Therefore, where people go, problems follow. We must all be held accountable for our actions both against ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Accountability is essential for spiritual, mental, and emotional health in our own lives and in the church.
Church hurts, resentments, and wrongdoings should not be brushed under the rug: what is left in darkness will only fester and spread.
The Bible speaks clearly on religious hypocrisy and the damage it causes:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Matthew 23:23
One day, we will all stand before God and be held accountable for the way we lived.
True accountability happens through community.
We all need people to help us see our blind spots. Sometimes we are so entangled in sin and lies that it is only through the help of others that we can see the truth and find freedom. In godly community, we must be committed to giving and receiving loving correction within our own lives and within our church. It is when we rely on others for guidance and wisdom that we find the strength to be holy.
Accountability allows relationships to flourish and resources to be stewarded well.
Church Hurt and God’s Character
Throughout the Bible, we are shown God’s character, but when deep hurt is connected to the church we can easily associate that hurt with who God is or how He feels about us. Let’s look to scripture to examine who God is.
He can’t stand hypocrisy.
- “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
- “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:4
- “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16
- “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:26-27
He draws near to those who suffer
- “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2
- “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12
- “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
He urges us to stand up for those being oppressed or mistreated.
- “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
- “Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16:20
- “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
Ultimately, God wants to meet us right where we’re at.
He does not offer judgement. His desire is for our ultimate good. In times when things don’t make sense, and maybe even praying or attending church is painful, He longs for us to continue to lean into Him.
Find community with people who will offer this same gentleness and love. Odds are, you will be able to find someone who has also walked through a season of hurt as well. Glean from their wisdom. Be vulnerable about how you’re feeling. Don’t walk that road alone.
In His design, God revealed the engrained need we all have for community. In community we can hurt each other, but it is also in community where we can find healing.
At Church on the Move, we believe you grow in places where you don’t have to be shy about your faults, questions, experiences, or doubts. You’re challenged and encouraged in places where you and other followers of Jesus can practice the command to spur one another toward good works. You find the joy of the Lord in places where you can be comfortable seeking to understand more about the character of God.
If you are going through a tough season, you’re not alone.
You are loved by God, and you are loved by us.
Check out our podcast episode talking more in depth about what to do with church hurt!