I “heard” the tears in her voice as soon as I answered the phone. She had been hurt, again, by something someone from church had said. As I listened I hurt with her. For many reasons. And then she said it - “why do so many Christians make it so easy to want to leave the church.” It could have just as easily been one of those other questions that pour themselves out in buckets of pain.
Why am I always having to clean up everyone’s mess?
If I had a $20 for every story that began: “I can’t believe what he/she/they did/said…” I could retire to Guam (never been to Guam so I’m not sure I want to retire there anyway).
I have to agree with her, we do seem often to do and say the very things that push people away from the Kingdom instead of drawing them to it. I want us to think about the “why.” Focusing on the what only frustrates us we might do better to think about why this happens.
It actually pretty simple and when we think about it it’s not shocking at all We are humans! All of us. Therefore we say stupid stuff, do wrong stuff and make inexplicably bad choices that hurt others. Please don't think for a moment I’m saying this is acceptable. It is not. But it is reality. It’s not going to stop and it’s not going to go away. And it exists in EVERY church of any sort. Conservative to the core and liberal to the limit - charismatic, community and counter-cultural.
It doesn't matter how good you are, or how hard you pray, or how much you study you are still going to make these mistakes.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so. James uses these words “the tongue is an unruly member,” “full of poison,” “if anyone does not offend in what he says he is a perfect man,” “no man can tame the tongue” (James 3:1-8).
Here’s why: We are sinners. I am, you are, that sweet little old lady is. We ought to grow and can but this side of eternity we won’t be perfect in the flesh. If I could be God wouldn’t have needed to send Christ. If I could be I wouldn’t need church. So, that is some of why I am “in” that very place where I will offend people. People, not incidentally, who also struggle with their tongue, who also hurt others, who also say and do some of the same stupid stuff I do. So, what do I/we do about it?
Grow up: Continue to grow your own faith. Work at all times in controlling your own tongue. I am not responsible for what others say but I am responsible for what I say.
Get used to it: This is not a copout it is a fact. I can’t control my own tongue how can I get overly upset when I run into someone who struggles with the same sins I struggle with. Don’t get all self-righteous on me. Your sins are not better (or worse) than those of another. Accept that I will at times get offended by what people say to/about/around me. I am neither excusing the hurtful words of others OR minimizing your hurt when someone so offends. Words do cut and hurt - I too am often hurt by what people say. But if I know it’s doing to happen I am less likely to overreact.
Gut it out! To let what someone else says to you keep you from the Lord and His Kingdom is a terrible thing to do. Think about it: You are considering leaving the place of salvation (Ephesians 5:23) because someone spoke to you in an offensive way. You accept that Jesus suffered and died on a cross for YOUR sins but you are going to let some little word keep you from Him? If someone punched me in the face every time I walked in the building I wouldn’t leave the Lord over it. How do we think the church is ever going to survive the persecution that IS coming if we can’t survive a few harsh/misunderstood/misinterpreted/difficult to hear words?