If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with who I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.
It is not something we, as Christians, wish to discuss and are loathe to reveal lest we discourage others from attending church, but it is a reality. A reality which recently descends upon my husband, Danny, and me in a most unexpected, unprecedented and hurtful way; one that completely blindsides us and leaves us reeling. When those we held closest as we walked with them among the worshipers turn against us with fangs bared, we wonder, what has happened to sweet fellowship?
In the years I've been a member of Facebook, I've witnessed too many friends who have been discouraged and disheartened by the way they have been treated in their churches. At the least, some have left their house of worship in search of a more embracing congregation. At the worst, some have thrown Christianity aside altogether, seeking blindly now for a faith outside of The Way. Lost and broken, they struggle and strive to find in the unfamiliar a hint of the love they once hoped to know through Christ.
When he asks people he meets why they don't attend church, this is what Pastor Wallace hears most often: "They're all hypocrites! Who, in their right mind, would want to be part of that?"
Wallace's answer? "Yes, we are all hypocrites. We are all sinners. That's why they and you and I need to be there."
That's why they and you and I need to be there . . .
We are fragile. We are fallen. We are prone to forget the saving grace of Christ Jesus when we have been hurt or wronged.
We see through our eyes, not God's. We long for our kingdom, not His.
We are all hypocrites, in desperate need of Christ's healing. Christ's salvation.
It's all too easy to draw up "enemy lines" and endure the slings and arrows coming from our foes, but when those same slings and arrows are hurled at us by those we count as friends? Trusted friends? Those with the kiss of Judas on their lips?
What do we do?
Jesus has the answer.
Seventy times seventy times seven and more.
And welcome everyone into His Kingdom by inviting them to join you in sweet fellowship at your house of worship. Show the love of Christ to them. When you do that, those who feel forsaken or hurt or lost will know they have found a safe haven in your church and in your heart.
Have you been hurt by a church experience? How did you react? How did you deal with your disappointment?
Prayer: Father, we, as Your children, are supposed to be loving and forgiving, even when it hurts and our hearts are breaking. Help us to remember that Your precious Son, Jesus, gave the ultimate sacrifice that we might learn to forgive and forget in Christian love, sweet fellowship, no matter what the circumstances. May our churches be places of warmth, welcome and acceptance for the lost and the seeking. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.