"As Christians,we are representing the idea of true forgiveness to the world."RECORD, January 29, 2005
It’s that I know too many people who have left the church who claim to have experienced too much hypocrisy in the church—that is, seeing people who recommend an ideal Christian lifestyle or attitude in every facet, but do not live it out in their own actions.
But you would be incorrect to assume that this editorial is about to issue a plea for all to stop being hypocrites. Trying to eradicate the harmful, hurtful and sinful nature that leads many away from what should be the most caring and loving institution in the world is too mammoth a problem, far beyond my meagre skills to fix here.
Another reason I won’t be attempting to fix the problem is that this editorial would most likely fall on deaf ears. Often we don’t recognise when we’ve negatively affected another person by what is said or done and so we are not given the opportunity to explain our actions or apologise. And the problem is magnified because while there are few who know when they have hurt someone else, allthose hurt feel the pain of it.
You most probably have had a negative experience in your church. This may have come from your conference office or other church organisation or your local church board; from your pastor or your elders and other church officers; perhaps even from your bulletin editor or members of the EDGE team! Somewhere along the line, someone in the church or its system will probably have offended you, let you down, upset you or made you think “and they profess to be a Christian?”
But without wanting to excuse or condone negative behaviour within the church, consider some of the following suggestions:
One: it is easy to be cynical toward people’s actions and the decisions made by committees and conferences. But believe it or not, most people are actually doing their best to cope with life themselves, be good and faithful to the best of their ability and play a part in our church’s mission.
Two: a person’s profession of Christianity does not mean they are declaring they are able to duplicate Christ’s perfect example.
Three: many who have had no intention to cause offence or harm would be horrified to be told of their good intentions impacting another in such a negative way.
Four: individual members may have identified some of their hurtful faults but are struggling to break their bad behaviour.
And five: many occasions of misunderstandings also occur when not having all the facts behind a situation or decision has unfortunately led to a mistaken feeling of hurt that would have been avoided with more information.
Now in a perfect world—which we will be a part of one day, praise God—everyone in the church would act as Christ, with no sinful slip-ups. But living though the church experience and all its trials has possibly brought you to a point where you have even considered leaving the church altogether because of your encounter/s.
While going to church is not the saving factor in your acceptance of salvation, not attending because of personal conflict may potentially be an indicator that issues in your personal relationships with other humans rank higher in significance than your commitment to God. A careful look at your relationship priorities may be needed.
Sure, there may be some extreme circumstances where you are forced to leave a particular church to keep the peace, but I’m sure it would be disappointing to God if you did not first try to find a solution or, if that attempt has failed, seek out another church community for nurture and worship.
But, having said all of that, if someone asked me for one bit of advice on how to successfully maintain a healthy relationship in the church, my number one piece of advice, both to the long-time Christians and even more so to a new Christian, would be this: Don’t get your picture of God’s character from His professed followers.
Whether it be individuals, leaders or committees in the church, look past their faults and work toward God’s cause. God is love, and His followers—including you and me—still need a lot of tweaking.
Forgive them, for they often don’t know what they have done.
The devil is working overtime to convince you that the church is of no value to you, especially by pushing personal conflicts in your face. Don’t take his bait and let him win. Yes, things will get dificult at times in church life, and this will always be so because the church is composed of humans. Always try to keep an