Hurt by the Church

“I have never been hurt by anybody the way I’ve been hurt by people in ministry,” my friend said with total conviction. I knew she wasn’t exaggerating. I also knew that she wasn’t the only person feeling this way.

Just in the past month, I’ve spoken with several people who’ve been hurt very deeply by others who claim the name of Jesus Christ. I understand it, because I’ve been there myself. When you’re in a situation like that, it’s easy to want to act in the flesh because of the emotions and disappointment keeping you up at night. However, slashing people’s tires or pushing them into wet concrete won’t change them for the better, and it will likely land you in jail. So how are you supposed to deal with hurt from our brothers and sisters in Christ? Here are some things I’ve learned from experience that have helped me. I hope they’ll help you.

1. Check yourself.
Did you play a role in the situation that caused you to get hurt after your own actions backfired? Have you done something wrong? If so, make it right. If not, after you finish looking at yourself in the mirror without having to turn away, lie down and try to get a good night’s sleep. Then proceed to #2.

2. Remember that imperfect people make up the Church, so we can’t always expect a smooth ride.
We all know what happened to Jesus. It wasn’t only people outside of the faith who hurt him, but inside, and he said since they treated him like that, we shouldn’t expect anything different. Now, this doesn’t make the pain any easier to bear, but it does put things into perspective. Exercising grace keeps us sane, but it does not justify bad behavior in the Church, which brings me to my next point.

3. We, as Christians, are called to treat each other right.
This is why it hurts so badly when a believer hurts a fellow believer; we should know and do better. Paul tells the church of Galatia to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Jesus himself said in John 13:35 that people will know we follow him by our love for one another. There are no excuses. If you call yourself a Christian, the purpose of your life is to represent Christ through love. If you’re dealing with someone who consistently treats people like garbage, maybe they’re the fakes that the Bible warns us to watch out for. People will always show you who they really are, and when they do, take their word for it. If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck…

4. Don’t become like what has hurt you.
If your offender ends up on top, you may be tempted to adopt their practices in hopes of not being victimized again. The pastor of the church I used to attend once said while speaking on a similar topic that “Christians will shank you with a Bible in the name of Jesus.” I couldn’t disagree. When you’re hurt, remember what it feels like to be on the receiving end of your situation and rise above the urge to be like your offender. If you’re left with a gaping wound, wrap it in some gauze and…

5. Forgive.
It’s not easy, but it’s necessary because:
a. If you don’t forgive, God won’t forgive you (Matt. 6:15).
b. Bitterness will eat you alive. Forgive so that you will be healed of the pain of the offense.
c. Forgiveness releases the offender of having power in your life. It helps you, over time, to let go of the hurt the situation caused.

6. Try to make things right.
Reconciliation is a cornerstone of our faith. If you don’t tell people they’ve hurt you, they may not know. Some people, however, are hard-headed and won’t care one way or the other. They may even justify their actions and tell you to man up. We don’t know how they’ll respond, so, in love, we need to let them know that their behavior is unacceptable. What they do with the information is out of our hands.

7. Recognize that this could be the best thing that ever happened to you.
The people who’ve told me about these Church hurts lately are in position for big changes to take place in their lives. Without the hurt, they may not have been prompted to move on. They may have stayed where they were and missed out on something great that wouldn’t have happened had the situation never occurred. Instead of being mad at the people who hurt you, it may be appropriate to send them a thank-you note.

In extreme situations, I’ve seen some people turn away from God because of what people have done to them. In those cases, they didn’t worship God to begin with; they worshiped the people who represented God to them. Be careful not to fall into that trap.

Finally, for those of you who aren’t believers in Christ because of how his followers often treat each other, I encourage you to not write off the Father because of what you see his knuckleheaded kids doing many times. We have a lot of work to do, and we will until we don’t live on this planet anymore.

Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with hurt from the Church? Leave a comment!