Last night I was told about someone... he and his whole family... life-long members of the Christian church... they left the church (not mine but theirs) for certain reasons. They are incredibly wounded because of things that were done to them. Without going into detail... they are done with church. They still love the Lord, but they are devastated, including their children, and they don't want to risk subjecting themselves to that kind of harm ever again. My immediate verbal and unedited reaction was, "Oh! I love those people!
" Not meaning just that particular family, but people like them. I know exactly what they are feeling. I've so been there. And my heart is moved deeply by such stories. I care so much for such people. They are my mission field. And it seems to be growing!
I believe they are victims, like many others I know and hear about, including myself. I am a walking survivor of spiritual abuse. I know intimately what it means. These people have suffered at the hands of the church. This is what I care about! I don't think, I could be wrong, but I don't think the church has the right to criticize them or challenge them... at least right now. I think they have the right to criticize the church. To criticize us. To criticize me!
If we, as the church, feel we are the church and are concerned about the welfare of all people, then I believe we must listen to all criticisms that are filed against us. Don't you? I don't think I am inaccurate to say that the church is guilty of and is constantly accused of abuse against its members. I feel we must listen to this and humbly absorb the possibility of this and make every attempt to rectify this... if we care at all about people like this family.
So, that being said, when someone claims they left the church and the faith because of the treatment he received at our hands, I think all mortal flesh should keep silence and listen to that with fear and trembling. Now is not the time to challenge them, but to challenge ourselves. On the last day, when I stand before the judgment seat, I don't want to be accused of not listening to my brother just outside my gate, especially if I was possibly the one who locked him out there.
When I went through devastating abuse at the hands of church leaders, I didn't need fixing. I didn't need persuading. I didn't need correcting. I didn't need to hear their side. All I needed was to be heard. I finally found people that would just listen to me, hear my anguish, affirm my complaint, and love me as wounded as I was. In time, when the sharpness of the wounds subsided and the tears dried and my heart started beating again, I opened my eyes and realized that those very people who were just listening were my community. They'd become my church. They'd given me a spiritual home. And now I feel strengthened to go after the rest splattered all over the battlefield we've created.
I realize some might say, "There you go with your generalizations again... we, we, we! You're not talking about me!
" But isn't it biblical, at times, to take upon ourselves the responsibility of the whole church and even the whole human race? Isn't is right to occasionally fall on our knees just because we are a part of the human race prone to harming others and a part of an organization prone to abuse, and say, "Guilty as accused!
The drawing/ sketch is one of mind, based on an image I saw in a dream recently, called "Jesus Suffers Among Precious Stones", available as a small print here