Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kicking Our Own To the Curb

I am troubled. There's a message that desperately needs to be shared with the church that I fear many in church leadership do not share. It's the message of love, forgiveness and grace.

We, Christians and non-Christians alike, know that Christians frequently fall into sin. Christian leaders in the public eye experience falls. And, what does the church usually do? We watch them fall, then kick them on out the door. We fear their association with us. We don't want them to ruin our image. And, what happens in the process? Non-Christians see us beating up our own, and they want nothing to do with us.

See, we as Christians so often say of our own who have fallen: it's people like that who cause the lost to want nothing to do with Christianity. I've said it. But, is it true? I've been mulling over that statement for quite some time, and I'm not sure it's always true.

I remember when I'd just asked God for forgiveness, and was beginning the process of recovery. It wasn't one of my close church friends who came to me to offer me comfort. This person didn't go to church at all. But for over an hour, she poured out her heart, her experiences, and gave me hope that God could redeem what I'd done. (Allow me to insert here that she had no idea what I'd done, but just recognized the fact that I was hurting and needed comfort.) How is that? Why wasn't it one of my church friends? I don't have an answer for that, but I have an idea.

Before I chose the path of deep sin, I used to joke about the fact that I didn't have the gift of mercy. It makes me cringe now to think I laughed about that. I had no mercy for one who'd been caught in sin. I'd drawn an invisible line, and if you fell on the wrong side of that line, my association with you was limited, if not cut off. That was also the predominant attitude of my then-church.

Then I became the person on the wrong side of the line. And I felt the pain of being pushed away.

I think the church is great at going on mission, reaching the lost who are hurting. But we are also great at kicking our own when they're down. It's contradictory. We are to extend love even to those who hurt us the most. When we are truly loving our own, we'll want to extend mercy, grace and forgiveness to them when they choose the path of sin. We'll want to cover their sin with grace so that the outside world can see God's redeeming work. Love doesn't allow us to kick one of our own to the curb.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8


  1. I love this post...this is soooo true...this has happened to my husband...when he lost his dad a few years ago...he did not receive the support from our church family and he became very depressed...his father was a minister for 50 years and my husband preached for a while...he was considering going back into the ministry but this did NOT help him at all...he has declined tremendously in attending church...me and my children still go but he hardly ever goes...I am so glad that you brought this point to light...it is a very strong message....

  2. I think you make a great point, and it's not just a Christian problem, but I would argue an American culture problem. We're not great with forgiveness, expecting all people to attain to this goal of perfection. Religions affect culture, but I think here is a case of culture affecting religion: so much of Jesus' work was associating with the fallen, something that people are extremely hesitant to do. Meanwhile, no one is perfect.

    I should note that I'm not Christian (I'm a theistic UU). My faith community is lousy at acknowledging individual weaknesses, preferring lofty global improvements. And we will welcome everyone, but we're also uncomfortable with sin and individual failing. Despite the love of humanity we proclaim.

    I think there must be something very human about what you describe, not unique to the Christian community at all.

  3. Ginny, this is something that has been heavy on my heart for several years, and continues to be. I think we who recognize this have to find the delicate balance between sharing this message and not holding it against those who would kick us to the curb. Hard spot to find! I hope your husband will soon join you in church again! Love you, girl!

    Christine, thanks so much for the comments! I'm glad you're here! I can agree with what you've stated; however, because I am a Christian (one who believes that Jesus Christ died for my sin, and received Him as Lord, Savior and Treasure of my life) I addressed the Christian church. We proclaim grace (my pastor's definition: unmerited favor and blessings through Christ freely extended to people who deserve His wrath), yet when it comes to our own, we often don't want to associate with those who fall into sin. It's completely contradictory of Jesus' life. I don't know how familiar you are with the Bible, but if you know the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15), you can get where I'm coming from. I'm so glad that Jesus willingly took my sin upon Himself while on the cross. He no longer remembers my sin! And I'm also thankful that my sin doesn't surprise Him...He knows me intimately, and loves me anyway. If only our churches, our country, and even our world would accept that Truth, we might catch a glimpse of what it means for people to truly love and offer grace. (Sorry if I've rambled too much!!) Thanks again for your comments, and please come back!!