Recently, I watched a few mesages from a local church online. Initially, I appreciated what the pastor had to say. He was addressing the state of our nation and the senseless acts of violence that have been occurring. He emphasized how all life was important and mattered. He taught on the importance of honoring one another. I was so impressed by his words that I began to listen to more messages from this church. I contemplated even visiting.
But then the kicker came, as Steve Brown likes to say. The pastor began to address in a sermon the reasons some people give for why they have stopped going to church. I was immediately interested and hoped to gain some encouragement, however I turned him off after I heard him call people stupid who said that going to church didn’t work for them.
I’m sure this pastor had a reason for saying what he did. I’m sure he’s run into those people who just make superficial excuses for not going to church. I’m sure some of those people are making excuses, because they just do not want to go. But I have not met many of those people, as a matter of fact most people I’ve met who have stopped going to church have had some very legitimate reasons. Most of the time they are very painful.
If all lives matter, then all voices matter, too. We have all walked different paths, we have all had different hurts, and I do not know exactly why all people do or don’t make the choice to do certain things, but what I do know it is not my place to label someone as stupid just because they don’t do things the way that I believe that they should, especially if I don’t know what is in their heart.
The truth is I long to go to church and be a a part, but everytime someone comes across to me like they have the answers for my life I am reminded of the spiritual abuse I suffered when I believed that another person did have the answers for my life. So, Pastor, you can call me stupid all you want, but making such a general judgement about people you do not know isn’t very smart.
Yesterday, I watched the movie Miracles from Heaven. It was a great film. I’m not going to give any spoilers on the storyline, but I really appreciated the overall view of God that the characters in the movie portray. I heard actress Jennifer Garner say in an interview about the film that one of the reasons she was so drawn into the story was because it wasn’t preachy. Jennifer even said the film had motivated her to attend church again. Jennifer’s words were a reflection of what was in my own heart. The film was simply a beautiful reflection of the glory of God.
I used to think when I was a part of the church that I had all the answers, too. But I have since then rethought how I handled a lot of situations back then. I’m learning that unless you’ve really walked in anothers shoes you don’t have room to judge. I’m learning that unless you really listen to another’s pain, you won’t be able to offer any comfort. I’m learning that everyone is different and we walk different paths. If all lives matter then we shouldn’t disregard anyone else’s pain just because they don’t do things the way that we think they should. Yes, I understand what the scripture says about not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. But scripture also says do not judge. Be humble. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. A bruised reed He will not break. A smoking flax He will not put out. It’s not about us having all the answers. It’s about loving the One who does and sharing His love with others.
I thank God for those people in my life that I listen to over podcasts and communicate with through texts, at work, through this blog, via email and on the phone. Though I’m not physically present with some of them I see a reflection of God through them and I am encouraged. And isn’t that what church is really supposed to be?
Maybe one day God will lead our family to that place where we will gather together with others on a regular basis. Maybe one day these open wounds from the spiritual abuse we suffered will heal so that we won’t be so sensitive to reminders of our pain and we’ll be more able to let some things go. But in the meantime God is with us and has made a way for us to be encouraged. And that’s what He does best!