Wounded By The Church

Since I’ve become a pastor on staff at a great church, I’ve found myself in the midst of many conversations about the church and about faith. Heartbreakingly I’ve heard many stories from those who have been hurt by and hindered by their local body of believers. The wounds brought about by the people of God can cut deep and leave long-lasting wounds on the hearts and psyches of many.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? There are church splits, church politics, church cliques, and  ungodly church leadership. All of us to some extent have been hurt by the church, hurt by the people of God.

One thing that baffles me at times is that God allows such horrible behavior in the lives of his servants and followers. If God is all-powerful, and loves the church so deeply (Ephesians 5), then why do such acts of ungodliness perpetrated by the people of God exist?

Why do I hear of men and women who are jaded towards the church, refusing to step into our buildings because they “love Jesus, but don’t love the church”?

Why do I see people turned off to religion because of the sins of prominent church leaders who allow greed, sexual desire, pride, hatred, or the lack of gentleness to take root and bloom in their lives, destroying their ministries?

Why does God allow ungodly men and women to be in positions of leadership in His church?

These are questions I have asked time and again, especially that last one.

My honest answer is that I don’t know.

I don’t know why this stuff happens.

That being said, through my reading of a couple chapters of Genesis last night, I discovered some light that I want to shed on the darkness of these travesties.

Now, if you haven’t read Genesis I would encourage you to. If you haven’t read it in a long while, dive back into it. It truly is a book of beginnings, of answers to our deep questions, a foundation upon which the rest of the Bible sits. Regardless of what you believe about creation, etc. there is still much for you to glean from this book.

One scholar I was reading said it like this,

The first part of the Bible (Genesis) has rare blessings for every person who will study it in seeking to understand the gracious ways of God’s dealing with mankind. 

That in my opinion is a wonderful quote. Many think that the gospel, or grace, shows up simply in the New Testament. That there may be allusions to it in the Old, but it doesn’t really burst onto the scene until the time of the nativity. That’s false. God’s grace to wicked men and women is woven throughout all of Scripture, even this very first book of the Bible.

That being said, here’s what I believe to be Biblical truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

I get this belief out of the story in Genesis 20.

In this chapter, Abraham is moving with his wife Sarah throughout the land. They come into a place called Gerar, which was a region that was overseen by the king Abimelech. Abraham, out of a desire to keep himself safe (v. 11) lies to Abimelech and says that Sarah is in fact his sister, not his wife. One, weird. Two, how very sinful.

Abraham was a man who had seen God, who had heard from God, who had watched God do the miraculous in his life. Yet here he is, lying, walking in sin, to save his own skin. How disdainful. How honestly wretched.

You may be telling me to hold up, that lying is not all that bad.

Well, look at the consequences of Abraham’s actions.

In Genesis 20:18 it says that the wombs of of the household of Abimelech were all closed due to the fact that Sarah was in their midst as a single woman and potential suitor. Abimelech brings Sarah into his court, thinking that Sarah is Abraham’s sister. This leads God to close off the wombs of his family.

Deep consequences inflicted Abimelech’s family due to Abraham’s sin.

Now trust me, I know. These are much different circumstances than what most of us would think about when it comes to sins perpetrated against non-believers by the people of God.

I don’t think there is a family in Vernon, TX that is unable to have children because of the sins of our church members. At least not that I know of. I’m not intending to make light of infertility struggles, I’m merely saying this story in Genesis 20 is quite unique.

Here’s the kicker for me though.

Here’s why I (not an Old Testament scholar) believe the above truth.

God can right the wrongs of His people. 

Because God appears to Abimelech.

In verses 3 through 7, God appears to Abimelech and basically tells him that he’s a dead man for taking a married woman into his household. Abimelech cries out and says that he didn’t know, that his nation didn’t deserve to be punished due to the lie of God’s servant Abraham.

Verse six is cool.

Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. – Genesis 20:6

If Abimelech touches Sarah, the just wrath of God comes upon his family because of the sins of Abraham.

But God intervenes.

He prevents Abimelech from sinning.

Now, there are intricacies to this story and plenty of other questions. But in my humble opinion, the truth still stands. God is able to right the wrongs of His people.

If you have been hurt by the church, hurt by followers of Jesus, I sincerely apologize.

I pray that God will do for you what He did for Abimelech.

I pray that God will right the wrongs that have been done towards you by those who bear His name.

I pray that you would find healing.

I pray that you would find the trust to join a church community.

I’m grateful to serve a God who is bigger than my foolish mistakes.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below.

Mr. Resolution

This year I will run a half-marathon. This year I will eat healthier. This year I will read the Bible twice. This year I will find financially stable and healthy practices of spending. This year I will write a letter to relatives I don’t live near at least once a month. This year I will become a solid basketball player.

These are just some of the resolutions I’ve made in the past at the start of a new year. As of the most recent years, they’ve become more and more spiritually focused. I’ll be acutely aware of my failings in certain aspects of my walk with Christ and I’ll make bold declarations of commitment to different spiritual disciplines. I’m going to read the Bible multiple times in a year, or memorize a lot of Scripture, or pray this much each day or wake up super early to spend tons of time in my room with the Lord. All of these aren’t inherently bad things, but they never last a month, much less a week. More often than not it’s because I’m trying to change my life in my own strength. More often than not it’s because I want to reverse or change something I don’t like about my past year and I think if I just try harder and be more committed that good will come of it.

Is this inherently wrong?

No.

Does it produce greater godliness in my life?

No.

So this year I don’t want to make any promises to the Lord and myself that I can’t keep. This year I don’t want to make any resolutions that shift all glory for the completion of such a resolution on my shoulders. I want to fall more in love with the Lord this year and let that be what drives me to greater obedience and commitment to the Lord.

resolution

2016 has had some huge highs and deep lows. I graduated college, started my first job in vocational Christian ministry, and fell in love with a wonderful godly woman named Jamie. Yet I wrestled with fear and doubt when life was hard. I had my first holiday season away from home. My grandfather passed away. Familial difficulties arose. My car broke down shortly after moving out to Phoenix. Yet one consistent aspect of my life has been God’s faithfulness to me. In the middle of me questioning His goodness, in the middle of me doubting His care, He was faithful and constant in His care and provision for me. That makes me desire a deeper commitment to Him. But that won’t come through me simply resolving to be better in discipline.

Let’s say I committed to reading the Bible through this year. I could successfully do that and still miss out on growing in my relationship with Him if it became simply a checklist requirement for the day. I don’t want that. I would much rather resolve to do that which deepens my love for Him. Daily Bible reading is certainly an avenue for that, but that won’t come from obligatory self-condemnation when I miss a day. It is a subtle and insidious lie that can so easily happen. I can resolve to better walk in spiritual disciplines and make the glory go to me.

Here’s the bottom line. The Christian life, the church, our faith are not about us, they’re about him – his plan, his kingdom, his glory. – Paul David Tripp

Peter was a flop of a disciple at times. That’s why he’s my favorite, he’s relateable to my sometimes inconsistent heart. One minute he was proclaiming that he loved Jesus more than anything and the next he was denying that he even knew Him. If anyone felt the pressure to resolve to be a better follower of Christ, I bet it was him. Yet after Christ’s resurrection, Jesus wasn’t concerned with Peter’s desire to commit to be better. He was concerned with Peter’s love for Him.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” – John 21:15

Jesus did implore Peter to do the work of Christ in the world by shepherding and caring for the people of God. But this was preceded by the question of whether or not Peter loved Him.

If your resolve to obey God last year did not help you to be faithful, it will not make you successful this year. Jesus asks for your love. If you truly love Him, your service for Him in the new year will be of the quality that He desires. – Henry Blackaby

I resolved to be as perfect as I could last year in faith and trust. Yet I came up short many a time. I’ve learned that not only is there grace for that, but that God is first calling me into a loving relationship with Him, and that out of this love I will grow in myself a desire to walk out His ways in the world this coming year.

So as we launch into 2017, fall more in love with Jesus. Jesus knows that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments out of that love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. – John 14:15

That’s my hope and prayer for this upcoming year. I want to fall more in love with Christ. I want to trust Him in the chaos. I want to believe Him in the midst of doubt. I want to worship Him in light of all that He is and all that He’s done. There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead but I know that my God is faithful.

I want to fall more in love with Jesus.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll eat some more vegetables along the way.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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