By Allan McLean. Have you ever been hurt by the church? It comes in different forms and at different levels of involvement, but regardless of how it comes, the results can be devastating and leave scars. These things are hard to deal with and we easily feel alone in our hurt which isn’t the case at all. Many have gone before us and are around us suffering from wounds inflicted by fellow church members and/or church officers and pastors. I recently had the privilege of being involved in a small way in the restoration process of a pastor and his wife who suffered through years of pain inflicted by church officers and members who turned away rather than implementing biblical restoration.
The title of this book is probably one of the most blatant paradoxes you will ever read. Let the words sink in and think about what they reveal. The church inflicting wounds and having to heal its way back to “…a people drawn from darkness to God and to one another.” This seems so contradictory however the local church is not immune to the tentacles of the evil one trying to dismantle the promises of God and taking a toll on her members.
God in his wisdom and infinite grace has described his Church, the body of Christ, as the bride of Christ. In the author’s words, “She is the fulfillment of God’s plan for creation and revelation of God’s wisdom to the powers of the age. She is the lover for whom Jesus eagerly awaits, the dispenser of justice and truth the devil dearly fears, and the body of the Christlike called from the nations of the earth. This is the Church-universal and invisible and pure. She is splendid and glowing, the mystical vision of believers through time.”
Do you belong to a church like this? If you are a believer embracing Jesus as your Savior you do belong to this church but what we see this side of heaven as church members is the version that meets locally and has walls and where we become involved in all aspects of church life. This is where Satan is busy doing what he can to destroy, wound, and cause friction leaving hurting people in his wake.
Not only does God tell us what his Church looks like and how majestic and glorious it is, he tells us what we look like and the potential that resides in all of us, both good and bad. “In fact, one of the most endearing features of the Bible is how God chose to portray people without apology in their raw and fallen state.” We learn about David and his sin as a liar, a murderer, an adulterer, and a thief; yet God called him a friend. What we see in the Scriptures is the nature of humanity and the many ways this nature is played out in our lives. The author explains, “Christianity is not the absence of stupidity and hurt. Christianity is the message of God who uses our stupidity and hurt to make us what we are destined to be. It is the truth of God who became like us in order to lift us from our smallness and our spite and make us into a people he is willing to call friends.”
Stephen Mansfield brings to the forefront through personal testimony and from others who have been kicked while down how deeply and severely we can be hurt by the church. Mansfield reminds us: “Every Christian has a capacity for the potential to commit the most disgusting and horrible acts of the flesh. This is the reality of the Christian life and we fool ourselves if we think otherwise.”
In the last chapter of the book, Mansfield gives “…three practical bits of wisdom…” that are very practical in helping people who have “suffered a church hurt.” Every pastor and ruling elder if not every member of the church should read this book. We are called to make disciples and sometimes this means helping wounded brothers and sisters recover.