WHAT TO DO WHEN FELLOW BELIEVERS CONTINUE TO OFFEND US?
One of the most revolutionary parenting ideas ever is this: “don’t babytalk babies.” Aside from surmounting evidence of how it is beneficial to use complete sentences instead of coos, doodoos and dadas to communicate with babies, I personally know that talking to my son without obliterating speech helped him speak quite clearly for his age. Although pronunciation is still developing, I can see that when he is encouraged to speak confidently, it also follows that he behaves maturely.
I am not sure why but babytalk makes me think of nursing offenses. This world isn’t perfect so naturally we’d have people offending us left and right. The older we get also, the higher the chances of encountering them. And this cannot be more often than in religious settings like the church.
Of course people expect perfection from the church, right? This is supposed to be a place full of “perfect people” who will say things in the most proper way, and approach problems in the most divine methods. Only that you and I know this is not true. That there is no such place, no such church.
Personally, every church I’ve been to could always do better. Better music, better preaching, better operations. Even better members!
My goodness, in the beginning of my faith I went through a rap of bad condemnation from some church members myself. These were believers who couldn’t shake off my past even in the light of my newfound faith in Jesus. They cynically thought I was only using the faith to stay romantically involved with the man who brought me to church. One year and a branch transfer later, another buzz arose as my immoral past just didn’t seem to fit the no-girlfriend-since-birth kind of pastor.
Now did those hurt? Well, I am not one who is easily affected so it didn’t. But they sure shocked me. How can people act this way when they’re Christians, right? But I figured that was the wrong question because evidence obviously showed that they could. So I then scrambled for the correct question to ask myself and ended up with this: “How do I keep walking with God when I just cannot be walking with those people?”
Well, this was the answer that God gave me, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
It was like God was telling me, “Naturally, when you walk by sight, you’ll see every little thing on the road that will tell you it’s not worth it, you won’t make it, it’s unfair, it’s hard, you have no hope, and all that. But supernaturally, when you walk by faith, your spiritual eyes will focus on Me, the Author and Perfecter of faith.”
That was a simple verse that led me to these two precious principles that I have decided to live by for as long as I have to exist in an imperfect church. (Which is pretty much until the second coming.)
1) Don’t walk with those people, but don’t quit walking with people all together.
When that happened to me I began to avoid those people who obviously could not help me grow in my faith. But at the same time I maintained my relationships with my spiritually mature brothers and sisters in the Lord, all of whom were willing to continue walking the walk and fighting the fight of faith with me. I did not change my church, but I changed my friends. I think a lesson I can offer here is never generalize. There are immature Christians, and also mature Christians. In every church, you’ll find both kinds so changing churches may not necessarily be a solution to offense.
But this is not to say that to stay in the same church is always the answer either. Sometimes changing everything all at once can also be beneficial, though I personally didn’t think God was calling me to do that at the time. I think He gave me grace enough to see it was only a matter of changing my most intimate circle of mentors and peers in church instead of changing church completely. So if offense ever happened to you, I agree to the idea of change but do seek God’s wisdom and His wise followers about how you can best go about it.
2) Don’t look at others, look at Jesus.
Remember this famous quote by Gandhi? “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
This is so true. Christians are so unlike Him. But a caveat to this statement is this — so why look at Christians then? After all Christianity is about Christ and not about Christians. And I don’t mean this to excuse myself for being reproachable. I do believe that we have the utmost responsibility of upholding righteousness in our lives as Christians, yes. But even the Bible admits that we are still a work of sanctification, we are still far from being Christ-like, getting there but not completely just about yet. And if we expect perfection from one another as Christians we might have taken His Word incorrectly as it never promised perfect believers but only a perfect God. It encourages and commands holiness and perfection like God’s, but not once did it say that we already are. For crying out loud I am not even near that state! (Some think I am holier than most just because I am married to a pastor. Then some think my husband is holier than me because he is a pastor. I can only chuckle.) Just about a year ago I nearly messed up my testimony because of my pride. So many people were shocked at my unchristian-like character, but this is also how I all the more understood that believers must walk by faith and not by sight. Because not even I, in my earnestness to walk uprightly, can be 100% sure that I can actually walk right in the eyes of God at all times. And yes, not even my husband. (Surprise, surprise. He isn’t perfect, too.) Only God is mighty enough to promise and be able to fulfill perfection and this is why He keeps reminding me “walk by your faith in Me and not by what you see others doing.”
Like I said earlier, the older we get, higher are the chances for offense as we continue to live amongst imperfect people, and belong to an imperfect church. But the greatest antidote to this is reminding ourselves that we are in this faith not because of people, not because of a church, but because of Our God. And He is perfect. So perfect that He chose to forgive and die instead of taking offense at our sins. Lest we be so entitled to ask the world for reparation for its grave offenses, perhaps we can instead bring our eyes to The Cross and ask ourselves, “Why did He even die for me?”