Have you experienced pain or hurt in your local church? Was it a result of your own doing or completely unmerited?
Realistically, we are quick to downplay our own faults whenever we experience hardship. However, it is true that many people experience unnecessary pain within the local church.
Throughout all Scripture, God has emphasized the importance of treating one another with love and compassion. Whether one is considering the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) or the second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31, NASB), God has clearly highlighted the value of love.
When Christians fail to love one another in a Christ-like manner, it presents confusion. How can followers of God, who is love, treat others poorly?
The simple answer is Christians are called to operate in love, but we often fall short of the mark.
1 John 4:16 tells us, “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him” (NASB).
Perfect love is demonstrated in God’s salvation to us (Romans 5:8). He has taught us how to love others, even when they oppose you.
I’m thankful for God’s grace when we fail to love in a Christ-like way. However, His grace is not an excuse for us to treat others flippantly, knowing that He will forgive us.
Rather, the church is called to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The church is also called to be unified, having gladness and sincerity of heart (Acts 2:46-47).
How the church responds to its own people provides a testimony to the world of who Christ is. John 13:35 reads, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.”
Let us love in a way that encourages, equips, and builds one another up (Ephesians 4:12). Also, let us love one another in a way that communicates Christ to a hopeless world.
Pastor Jonathan Parnell writes, “And that’s how we live together as the church in this world: we go against the grain of societal expectations, we help one another when it hurts, and we love one another to represent our King.”
Now, just as we receive grace when we fail to love properly, let us also give grace to one another. If you’ve been hurt by the church, address the issue but do not harbor bitterness against the church.
Afterall, the church is the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32). One cannot love Jesus and hate His Bride.
It is unwise to allow a painful or unpleasant interaction to interfere with your engagement in a local body of believers. We are called by God to actively participate in His church gatherings (Hebrews 10:25).
When wronged by the church, follow these steps: 1.) realize that no one, other than God, is perfect — we will let each other down; 2.) see if there is any error or sin in your life that led to the hurt — if so, repent to God and to your necessary church members; and 3) voice your concern if you are not at fault — seek reconciliation.
Give grace to one another, as we also need grace from one another. Love the Lord’s church!