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Depending on what has been done to you, forgiving the church is going to cost a lot. It will be hard. But you have a Savior, whose Spirit lives inside you, and he can give you the strength and faith to pull it off.
How and why should you forgive the church? First the why. Two reasons actually. First, you can’t call yourself a Christian and not be part of the church. It’s inconsistent. It’s like saying you’re a vegetarian but you don’t eat vegetables. That kind of lifestyle inconsistency needs to be resolved or it will eventually lead you away from a pure faith in Christ.
What I mean is, eventually you will resolve the inconsistency. Your conscience won’t permit you to live that way and people will begin to question your commitment to Christ. So you will look for a reconciliation. In the end, you will say things that are not Biblical like, “I don’t need church.” Or “I get all the church I need at home.” You will begin to loosen what Christ demands of our lives. That will result in more loosening and over time you will find you are not following Jesus, you are following a “faith” you have customized for your own conveniences.
Second, we need to forgive the Christians who have hurt us because they will hold us captive. Think about this for a second. Because someone did something to you, you are not going to return to a place. Just take church out of it for a second. You’re going to let the knucklehead that hurt you keep you from something!? So they win. They are controlling you and you don’t even see them anymore. I don’t know about you but I don’t like it when people I love tell me what to do, much less when someone who I don’t like tells me what to do. But in a passive way, you are letting your offender get away with telling you to not go to church. They are controlling you! The reason you need to forgive them is so you aren’t controlled by anyone but Jesus. When you made Jesus your Savoir, you called him Lord. Which is like a king. A ruler. Jesus is the one who should be ruling your heart, not the ones who hurt you. Believe me Jesus is a far better ruler than any person on earth, especially your offenders. So forgive these people and get on with your life in Christ, at church.
How? First of all, in prayer. In fact this doesn’t happen without a lot of honest conversations with God. Take some time reflect on what has been taken from you and confess that to God. Did you lose purity? Tell Him. Did you lose a job? Tell Him. Did you lose a mentor? Tell Him. Did you lose friends? Tell Him. This is how you lay your burdens on God. He is not shocked or taken aback by your bluntness. He is God. He is love and He loves you more than you can possibly know. So let Him have it. Give Him all the pain.
Then sadly I have to warn you this will take time. You must be patient. Forgiveness is never fast. There are a few times when brothers or friends have conflict in Scripture, like Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, or Paul and Barnabas. In each of these we see forgiveness happen sometimes by the turn of a page. It feels quick. In reality, the Bible describes years, or even decades passing before complete forgiveness takes place. So don’t be alarmed if you haven’t forgiven your offenders in a few days. You’re just like the heros of the Bible.
It also takes confessing the pain to a trustworthy mature friend in Christ. Your friend will grieve with you and hopefully pray for you. This is part of the journey of forgiving. And this is why we need the church, to bear one another’s burdens.
Finally in takes releasing. Add it all up. Everything they took from you. Acknowledge it. Stare it in the face. Then ask yourself. What can be done to make what they have stolen from me whole again? I can spend the next several paragraphs dragging out this exercise but let me just cut to the chase. You will find out the answer is: “nothing.” There is nothing they can do to fix the wrong that has been done to you. Everything you come up with will only be pocket change compared to the debt they have to repay you.
You know what that makes them? Bankrupt. They are in debt to you and they can’t pay it back. You my friend have no other choice then but to release them from their debt. Just like Jesus released us from our sin debt. When it came to our relationship with God our sins made us bankrupt. There was no way we were going to make it up to Him. We can’t outweight our bad with good. God is too good. Our best day is nowhere close to His holiness. So we needed to be released from our debt as well. Jesus released us and has given us the power to release others from their sins against us.
There is freedom on the other side of this pain: the freedom to follow Jesus with an unburdened heart.
Thanks for reading. And thank you in advance for purchasing my book.