Many fall foul of the religious system this side of the gates of eternity; and by ‘religious system’ I mean humankind’s religious constructs and constraints that handcuff the ability for deity to break through and make a real spiritual difference in a believer’s life. It happens in the world’s religions and the root cause is selfish, unreconciled humanity.
A dangerous precedent is set when this occurs. People, and especially outsiders, begin to see the fingerprints and grip marks of humanity all over the spiritual—it crowds out any viable spirituality. It humanises what was never supposed to be.
Christianity is especially prone to this. This is probably because the concept of grace, as the key differentiation between Christianity and other world religions, is particularly sensitive to human disturbance. Worldly haranguing religious leaders, in their legalism, will smother the Spirit’s gentle grace the moment they open their mouths and converse with people. It’s apparent very early.
These leaders are the overwhelming minority. I mean, I don’t actually know one of these—yet, they must exist by virtue of the stories we’re told.
It needs to be said that:
Just because most confessing Christians can’t or don’t live truly after Jesus (as much as they can) isn’t Jesus’ fault. Some people blame Jesus or God (apparently these two entities are separate according to some) for how their lives have turned out or how Christians i.e. pastors ‘have treated them.’ But, these people forget very quickly; they’ve not dealt with God, but with fallible human beings.
Pastors are no more perfect than the next person, and the vast majority will quickly point that out themselves—in fact, their theology is proved correct when they do this. Sure, they must deal with many of their own moral issues and approach a higher standard to serve adequately in the church, but perfect people they will never be—of all people, pastors know this. They know how imperfect humanity is. It is self-evident.
This takes us back to the hurt, disenfranchised person; “stung” by a church or by some negative or unloving experience of church.
Enter the inevitable paradoxes, the sweet at-times bitter ironies that confound the human being in his or her proud godless state:
Hurt people are amazingly consistent in their modus operandi—their own perception is they don’t hurt; they get hurt. They have an acute sense of the external locus of control. It’s the thing of, ‘Stuff happens to me,’ meaning they have a victim complex. To generalise and stereotype, they externalise everything and become responsible for nothing—not even that which would help their cause.
Another rampant sign of hurt people: aggression. Aggression equals fear. The aggressive personality is almost always the manifestation of an un-self-loved person deep down.
And at root—what is the source problem?
They’ve also not dealt with their own feelings of rejection. They’ve not sought God’s unconditional acceptance to ameliorate their own sense of unacceptance. Yes, the very people who reject Christ and his church are shrieking in the fear deep down—and Jesus is the only One who can save them!
What a mess! There are many unfortunates. The only thing we can pray for is the people least likely to surrender, will.
And this attends to something all people must account for: rejection and acceptance. There is nothing more profound to human experience than this. No matter how well loved we were as children, we have all felt—and are all plagued by, to varying degrees—sweeping rejection.
The unfortunates who can never constrain their fear long enough to see and admit this will crash into a Christless eternity, and that collision course beckons, even now.
The truth is we’ll always feel rejectable until we’ve genuinely felt the loving embrace of Christ—the One who never condemns, because grace can never condemn.
There are genuine cases of people being hurt by churches. The perpetrators could not possibly know Christ, and I’d posit that they’d not dealt with their rejection, experienced Christ’s cross or swam in his unconditionally accepting grace.
Love cannot hurt. Neither can grace. But hurt people hurt people—whether these are inept ministers or the hurt people themselves. Yes, many times the people hurt in church simply haven’t dealt with their own sense of clinging rejection; they’ve not truly been introduced to the abiding grace of unconditional acceptance.
Hurt? Look within.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.