Church: what do you do with all this imperfection?
I met an educator who freely admits to her imperfections, yet she looks at the church to be perfect, or nearly perfect. She wouldn’t say the following outright, but she thinks church should be far, far better than it is.
She can have flaws, but the church shouldn’t.
Like you, I read about sexual abuse and misconduct in churches. These wrongful acts—these sinful acts—need to be brought to light. Justice needs to be served. Healing, as possible, needs to happen.
But what do we do with the overall mess that is church? Because it’s imperfect, do we trash it?
We should look at the individual church when wrongdoing has happened. We should also look at church leaders not as a whole, but as individuals, when evil has occurred. Sweeping generalizations don’t work. Specifics do. But do we, like the educator I mentioned, stay away?
The answer is no. The answer also gets more personal. To the one who has been sexually abused by a priest or pastor, to the spirited teen squished by an old grump senior choir member, to the church secretary or support staff person who is exploited, manipulated, or has been treated so poorly for far, far too long, I am now speaking to you.
I am also speaking to the person who has experienced a bump in church life and now isn’t all that cozy with what is happening in the worship center where you’ve invested your spiritual soul. What do you do with all this imperfection?
Start here. Take a deep breath. And then another. And then another. Look at what has hurt (and likely still hurts) you. Stare at that pain squarely and evenly and then face the darkness head on. Get professional help if you need it, then do exactly what Jesus has done, and that is forgive.
I get it. Forgiveness is easier said than done. It is the OPPOSITE of what you want to do if you are not in a church now.
You may have to attend a different worship house. You may have to continue therapy. Here’s another hard pill to swallow: there are no easy fixes, even with minor infractions. There is a bottom to this, however. There’s a way to turn around, and it’s called forgiveness.
An amazing, giving, talented and wonderful soul has left our church because, in an honesty she still can’t admit, it was too much work. It was too hard. She thought church should be easy, that because we follow Jesus we should always sound and act like Jesus. She’s right. We should sound and act like Jesus. But we don’t. At least not always.
Leave any church for any reason, this is your prerogative. This may even be for your safety or sanity, but don’t stop. Finish this column in a few seconds and think about who has wronged you in your church history. Somebody did something. Guaranteed.
The one to help you forgive is the same one who wants you back in church. That’s Jesus. Talk to Him. And then listen.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on September 12, 2018.