Recently I have heard a few people mention they have been to a church, (even mine), where they did not feel welcomed, or loved. The really bad thing I was told about church here lately was, “The church is unforgiving”, ouch! A good friend of mine once said, “People do not go to church, because they have been”. The point my friend is making is clear, church hurt is real. A person who has been to church, and has been hurt by the church, due to whatever circumstance provoked that person’s hurt, that person experienced real pain from that hurt, and left the church with a bad impression of church in their mind. So the question one would ask is why? Why is there church hurt and no love? Why is there no warm inviting atmosphere? The church is supposed to be like Jesus and love others unconditionally right? I want to answer these questions along with some other issues I need to address and bring to light. First to answer the question, are we the church to love like Jesus unconditionally? The answer is yes. In the gospel of John we read these words from Jesus. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35, NKJV). As we read the words of Jesus I think we would all agree and say amen. The church should be known by their love for people. As a follower of Jesus I know every Christian does and will love others. Now hear me out, at times not always perfect, but the church will love and when they do not, they will repent. You see it is not the Christian who loves people based on their own efforts, but it is the Spirit within them that will motivate , lead, and cause the Christian to love. Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (NKJV).
The Holy Spirit Himself is power source behind the effort and action of the Christians love. That is why a Christian will love, because they are loved perfectly by a Savior. John goes on to write in his epistle 1John 2:10-11 “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (NKJV). John’s point is clear here those who love Christ, love people, those who do not love Christ cannot love others. In John writing we see that it is those who are saved who loved like Christ, unconditionally.
There are two truths we can learn from the verses we have mentioned above. One, a person who has Christ will love no matter what situation or environment they are in. Maybe you have heard some people who claim to be Christian say something along these lines. “Oh, I do not like that church their unloving, no one said hi to me or came up to me, worse yet I think they were talking about me.” To which we would reply, “That’s terrible”, which should be the correct response when a church fails to love. Scripture, however, would say something else. I want to be careful here for we are to have discernment and wisdom in all things Spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:15). So with that warning, the truth we have learned from the apostle John is the Christian is the one with the love. Meaning there should never be a place where the Christian is at whether home, work, school, community, and yes church, where the love of Christ is not present. A Christian’s life cannot help but to be love, for the Spirit reaches out through us loving all. And where there is a Christian their love will draw other Christians and reach out to those around them. Once again Scripture tells us in,
1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (NKJV). So for one to say they believe in God, and that they are a Christian, and then complains that the church has no love, is a contradiction in truth. The same thing can be said about a church being unforgiving. The bible is clear we are to forgive and once again it is the Spirit within us that directs leads and guides us to forgive. Matthew 6:14-15 “14 "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (NKJV). A true believer in Christ will forgive.
This leads us to our second truth that will help answer the question why then is there church hurt. The answer is because of sin. Sometimes people do and say things that are hurtful. When this happens with a true Christian, the believer will repent and restore the relationship. The other reason for the church hurt is truthfully not all people in a church are saved. Yes, this is sadly true; there are those people who come to church every Sunday who do not know Christ. Jesus does not give us a clear answer why he allows those who are not saved to fellowship with believers. He does how ever give us a parable that explains one reason why I believe he does. The parable is found in Matthew 13:24-30 “Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'28 He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' 29 But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn" (NKJV).
Jesus’ point was there are some tares that will become saved. Therefore, He leaves them in a church until the harvest time. So those who show up to church week after week, who are not saved, may in fact become saved, through the gospel, and the love of the true church. How cool is that.
So in all fairness and truth there is pain and hurt in church, because there are broken people who attend. You will find love in a church from true Christians, and yes, even in the same church find church hurt from those who sin and are Christians, but will repent. As well as from those who are not saved. The good news however Church is a place to find the love of Jesus and it is where His children gather to worship Him. There is a Savior who forgives and loves everyone with a perfect love. I believe there are true believers, Christians in every church. If that is true then there is love and forgiveness, and a warm and inviting atmosphere. The reason I believe this, because Jesus is there in those who love Him. And through them Jesus will show you His love. I pray you know Christ and seeking him. Please forgive us here at NSBC if we have ever hurt you, or caused you grief and pain. That was not our Savior, but a sinful heart in broken people needing that same love from Christ as everyone else. Know there are those who love Christ, who will love you, and who knows maybe will even play some horse-shoes.