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,
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