“Put down the gun, and nobody gets hurt”
This could be a scene from “Law and Order: Petty Crimes under $20 unit”, it is, however, a metaphor of a larger problem that is plaguing our churches, and a reason why we see a plurality of churches and denominations scrambling to simply stop the mass exodus of people leaving to seek life elsewhere.
The problem is that the church has a very bad habit of shooting our wounded. Original sin created a legacy of brokenness, but you wouldn’t know that by the facade that we all put up in our churches every week. The face that we paint on every week is that everything is great, God is good, and that our lives are that as to make the Cleaver family jealous. The problem is, it is just that…a facade.
Because of our brokenness and the fact that we live in sinful and fallen world, our lives are not always rainbows and gumdrops, but rather tattered, beaten, and bruised. They are unrecognizable shells of what was intended to be in the Garden. However, we can’t let anyone know that we are struggling, that we are having problems, or that we have open wounds. We look around, we see the smiling faces, and we hear that everything is great, that God is good, and our assumption is that we have sole proprietorship of our struggle.
So we hack our way through, alone, without help, and destined for the inevitable failure that will result in the ultimate crash and burn. When we crawl out of the crater, looking for someone to help us get back on our feet, we see nothing but turned backs and dodged phone calls. Our sin has been brought to light…our humanity revealed, and that has disrupted the carefully scripted narrative that we have constructed that Christians don’t struggle, don’t stumble, don’t fall, and this disruption is simply unacceptable. Our humanity revealed doesn’t mesh well with the “Everything is great, and God is good” facade.
Our humanity demands that the church serve to help people in their times of suffering and need. We miss the opportunity to truly show Christ’s love towards humanity without precondition and at a time where they are in the most need to see Christ’s love, at a time when they are most vulnerable, at the very moment the church should ride in on a white steed and save the day, we absent without leave. This is the church’s moment to shine and truly minister, and our propensity to miss this opportunity time and again in favor of protecting the facade results in the broken and hurting, with humanity freshly revealed, people look for comfort in other areas that do not involve Jesus, often times to their further destruction.
I wish I could say that ministers are immune the occasional spiritual sprained ankle or compound fracture, but sadly that is not the case. God’s calling for those to lead the church in a ministerial position are just as susceptible to struggle and hurt as anyone else, and when they crash and burn, they are just as susceptible to be left behind and caste out when their humanity is revealed too. How many times do we see minister’s who fall from grace only to be left behind when they stumble and fall. In their times of need, fellowship, and grace, they get shuns, unreturned phone calls, and unanswered emails. These cries for help go unanswered and their needs unmet. They sit, wonder, and pray that God will rise through this, and they will be used to advance the kingdom not because of their failures, but despite them. Their work is not done, and their calling in their life is still as real as it was they day the first felt the pull, or framed their ordination certificate.
We are followers of Christ and we are battling our sinful nature. We are continually following Christ, continually learning from Him, continually seeking his will, and continually battling our humanity that often times leaves in its wake devastation and despair. These points are indisputable and have been laid out throughout scripture. And this point is (hopefully) indisputable as well WE MUST DO BETTER. Because if we continue to put up the facade, and continue to shoot our wounded, we better hope that we don’t sprain our ankle and fall on the way.
Rev. Phillip Larsen