When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, ‘I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,’ we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.
It is important to think about the Church not as ‘over there’ but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer. – Henri Nouwen
How do you forgive a church that fails you? One that fails to ask for forgiveness or even admit it’s wrong?
4 Steps to Forgiving the Church
1. Identify and acknowledge the offense – Hurt feelings and anger make it difficult for us to actually address what happened. Before you denounce the church, sit down with pen and paper and write an account of what happened. You may find that you are primarily angry with one or two individuals and not the church at large. So, take time to know the what and why behind your feelings.
2. Pray for wisdom – When feelings are hurt it’s hard to know what to do. Say something? Do something? Wait? Pray! Ask for wisdom, understanding, and perspective. Ask God to guide you and help you know what to do and when to do it. Ask Him to keep you from complaining and gossip.
3. Choose to forgive – Forgiveness does not excuse what happened; it ends peace robbing emotions and frees you to move on. Forgiveness gives peace and understanding to help you blame less, take the offense less personally, and change the end of your story.
4. Choose the church – You may have good reasons for feeling uncomfortable about attending the church where you were hurt. Take the time you need, but don’t reject the church in general. Nouwen was right when he said, “when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ.”
Visit another church or attend a different service if you need perspective while you’re praying and processing just don’t isolate yourself from godly people who can minister to you.
Jesus is the head of the church.
The body of the church is crowded with sinners who need love and forgiveness.
I need love and forgiveness. I imagine you need love and forgiveness, too.
The church is full of people like you and me.
People who need love.
People who need to be forgiven.