Monday, November 23, 2009

Forgiving the Church

Yesterday I spoke on forgiveness.  My hope was to get you to move from your perspective on forgiveness to God's perspective on forgiveness.  God's perspective on forgiveness is this: You have been forgiven much, so you forgive much.

Not long ago I was introduced to a great guy.  As our conversation progressed he proceeded to tell me that he was not interested in attending church.  He said he believed in God, Jesus, and was a faithful follower.  The church though, was not part of his faith.  He said that he had been been hung out to dry too many times.  He and his wife had been deeply wounded by this experience.  So he was through with church.  He wasn't going to do that again.

He loved Jesus. He just didn't love the church Jesus died for.  Well, I take that back.  It's not that he didn't love the church as an institution, but the people in it, that's another story.

This conversation, plus preaching about forgiveness Sunday, brought this thought to mind.  First, why do church people hurt other church people?  Then second, why do Christians have such a hard time forgiving other Christians?

First, why do Christians hurt each other?  Well, the answer in front of our nose is we have a mission we are very passionate about and those passions can lead to confrontations.  Those confrontations can lead to power plays, turf wars, and personal insults.  It just ends up that people hurt each other.

I think another factor the equation is spiritual immaturity.    When people have issues of pride, immorality, do not speak the truth in love, and are self-centered problems can easitly arise.

You see this other relational based organizations too, such as sports teams.  It seems though for a sports team we will allow coaches and other players to taunt and humiliate in the name of the game.  If I treated my church family like a lot of coaches treated their teams I would be fired.

I always wondered about that.  I always thought eternity was more critical than a game.  You would think we would invite criticism and push each other harder so we can see faith, hope, and love triumph over all.  Sorry, gotta little diverted there.

Secondly, why do Christians have such a hard time forgiving each other?  I thought to myself, after talking to my new friend, that he will never get over the hurt he had at church unless he learns to forgive those people.  He will carry that pain around all his life until he does so.  He probably knows that.  He just isn't practicing it.

I don't have an answer for that.  We are to be the ones that demonstrate Christ's forgiveness to the world by our forgiveness towards each other.  We have been forgiven much, so why don't we forgive much?

Here is my conclusion (After I said I don't have an answer, ha!): most Christians are not all that close to Jesus.  I heard the wonderful Timothy Keller speak about this in August.  He spoke on the parable of the prodigal son.  In it he said Jesus gives out two paths to God.  The son who left home and the son who stayed home. 

Both were rebellious.  The youngest son was rebellious outwardly.  The older son rebelled at home.

Mr. Keller made the point that most Christians are like the older brother.  Why did he rebel?  He rebelled because he thought he deserved the big party and not the the younger brother.  After all, he earned it.  Because of this attitude the older brother never had a relationship with his father at all.  Therefore he wasn't able to show grace to his younger brother.  He never knew the grace of his father.

That is why I believe Christians have a hard time with forgiveness.  They really don't know their heavenly Father, who has forgiven them so much!!!!

Like I said yesterday, if you're going to have the ability to forgive, you gotta know the Forgiver!  I just hope churches are the place where people practiced forgiveness in incredibly gracious ways.


No comments: