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.

Chuck. E. Cheese & The Gospel

Today I took my brothers to Chuck. E. Cheese. It was a fun experience, albeit it was a little crazy and hectic in this children’s casino. Caleb and Matthew each played their arcade games and tried to garner as many tickets as possible in order to get some prize at the end of our afternoon. Matthew came up with 121 tickets, and Caleb only came up with 84 (he was obsessed with the pure chance style games). We walked over to the counter to pick out toys, and they each laid eyes on their ideal toy. Caleb wanted an emoji glow stick (yes, it is as stupid looking as it sounds) and Matthew wanted a Rubik cube (Chuck. E. Cheese. themed).Chuck-E.-Cheese

Both of those toys were 400 tickets a piece.

They were way short.

Matthew may have done better in the arcade than Caleb, but they were both going home empty handed.

Now unbeknownst to my brothers there was a nifty little rule at the toy counter that allowed someone to purchase tickets for a penny a pop. So lo and behold, Matthew and Caleb both got their toys that will be broken or lost within the week (I got me one single Cherry Airhead for what seemed like a bajillion tickets, which was a tremendous rip-off).

Now, let me tell you, my sacrifice for Caleb and Matthew was puny. It was a handful of dollars. But it is a teeny tiny example of the gospel message.

Bear with me.

I have sickness. I have pain. I have rebelled against God. I have sinned against God. I have countless grievances committed against God.

Yet every ounce of that has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Every ounce of it.

While reading this afternoon, I came to the passage from Isaiah 53 that is likely well known to you if you have a church background. I was amazed by the consistent refrain of ‘He. . . Our.’ Look at the passage with me and see what I mean.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:3-6

How does that not evoke worship in your heart? I’m drawn to the edge of tears when I think deeply about this passage. I read it over and over again this afternoon, underlining and highlighting different aspects of it.

One thing that’s cool about this passage is that it reminds us that the Old Testament foreshadows Christ as being the sacrificial Lamb of God. This passage should also remind us that the righteousness that we are given by God came at an immense price. Look at the unfairness of this situation.

He bore our sicknesses

He carried our pains

He was pierced for our rebellion

He was crushed for our iniquities

The Lord punished him for the iniquities of us all

Jesus paid an incredible price for us to obtain forgiveness of sins and peace with God (v. 5).

What’s even crazier is that none of us could ever receive this righteousness, this forgiveness, this peace on our own. Verse six paints an immensely clear portrait of our tendency as humans. We all have strayed, we all have turned to our own way. Now this passage wasn’t written to us 21st century Christians, but I think it’s safe to say that we also are in the same boat of none of us being able to measure up to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Romans chapter three makes this pretty clear, so take a look at that chapter if you are wary of my proclamation.

None of us could ever measure up. We all despise and reject Jesus when we fall into sin, and every single one of us has fallen into sin. Some of us may think we’re better than others in our pursuit of perfection, but even if that was the case, we would still all fall short. Just like Matthew performed better than Caleb and still came up short.

Every one of us comes up short.

How grateful we should be.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Christ lived the life I could not, and He paid the sin debt I was unable to pay.

I don’t want to belittle the gospel with this illustration at all, but I can’t help but think of entrance into heaven like that prize counter at Chuck. E. Cheese. The cost for the ‘prize’ of eternal life with God is an insurmountable debt that I cannot pay. I see myself holding in my hands the ragged tickets I’ve garnered in my life, realizing I don’t stack up at all with the cost of eternal life. I picture Jesus tapping me on the shoulder and telling me ‘I got this.’

The people who read this passage in the days of Isaiah were likely given a sweet and ferocious anticipation for the coming Messiah.

I know that He has come. Jesus Christ paid my debt. He took all of my sins, pains, rebellions, and grievances. He was my substitute sacrifice. He paid my debt.

You can either reject this gospel or you can receive it. You can either reject Jesus as your substitute sacrifice or you can receive him.

Receive what he has done for you.

Worship.

– In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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

*The Christian walk is not one of achievement or earnings, this was simply an illustration.