Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4: 29-32
We have all heard the expression before; church hurt. We all may even know people who are still languishing in the pain or betrayal they never saw coming; from the church they sought refuge in. I know people who were hurt decades ago and have not returned to church. People who claim they are healed but the bitterness surrounding their hurt is still palpable. I recently came across whole swaths of people uniting through social media; bound together by their hurt. Their pain evident in their willingness to seek out any negativity about the organized church they can find just to apply it like a balm to their open wounds. Some may say I speak to what I do not know but the truth is I to have been hurt in church. I too have been treated unfairly and watched as people revealed themselves to not truly serve the cause of Christ from within a church system I loved. I do understand. Before we get to the key verses, let us start by acquiring some general wisdom we can apply to our situations and our lives. The first lesson for us today is to correctly identify the perpetrator.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. - Ephesians 5: 25-27 (ESV)
The first thing we need to do is correct how we speak about our hurt. The church did not hurt us beloved. We were hurt in the church for sure but when we speak of the church, we are speaking about the entire body of Christ, which is also His bride. Jesus died for the church. We are the church. Now this may seem to be an argument over semantics but it really is not. When we say to ourselves for years that the church hurt us then we continually reinforce this mischaracterization. Saying we were hurt in church merely refers to a building, not the bride of Christ for whom He willingly went to the cross. Once we have correctly referred to our hurt as occurring within a specific building, we must realize that a building in and of itself cannot hurt us. No beloved - people hurt us. That is really the sad fact our hearts struggle with so much. That people who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters in Christ would actually hurt us. Perhaps even that leadership within our church would actually hurts us. Perhaps even that the man we called pastor would actually hurt us. These are deep betrayals to our soul because we entered into our faith confused about who we are in our salvation. We remain sinners. Do not listen to the greasy grace preachers! We are sinners who have been saved by the grace of God. We still are human. We still reside in flesh. We still succumb to the temptations of the enemy and yes, we still hurt people. So once we start correctly referring to our hurt as occurring within a church as opposed to being hurt by the building itself, we need to identify the guilty parties. Who is it that hurt us? Was it those we served in ministry with? Was it the elders and leadership of the church who lofted themselves up as being so spiritual? Was it the pastor himself? I have heard horror stories of pastors revealing private information from the pulpit about congregants! I could only imagine the pain at a betrayal such as that. Yet even at that highest level, the church did not hurt you. That pastor did and he is just a man. As hard as this is going to sound we must then forgive the people that hurt us so badly. Not just because it is clearly biblical and is taught in the key verses as Christ having forgave us. I say it for our own benefit as well. Unforgiveness is the poison we drink while we wait for the other person to die. We probably all know people who simply can never forgive someone and how it eats at them year after year like a cancer inside of them. Only through forgiveness can we set ourselves free. Secondly we need to remember that it is the devil who wants us alone.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him--a threefold cord is not quickly broken. - Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 (ESV)
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. - Hebrews 10: 23-25 (ESV)
We were not meant to be alone. The devil tempted Eve when she was alone. David fell into the Bathsheba sin when he was alone. The devil tried to tempt Jesus when He was alone. Elijah's darkest moment was when he was alone and felt like he was completely alone in the world. The Christian faith was meant to be a community taking care of one another. Instead we live these separate lives of quiet desperation hiding behind our church masks for 2 hours on a Sunday and thus thinking we have fulfilled our "Christian" duty. The Bible teaches that iron sharpens iron but we walk around with the edges to our dual edged sword dull from non-use. While we are on this subject, Facebook is not a fellowship. It has many uses that are very beneficial but it also destroys relationships as they were designed by God to be. Joining a group of like minded, wounded ex-church people does not assuage the concerns raised in Ecclesiastes 4. No one writes about the abuses in the modern church system as much as I do but that does not mean I advocate spurning the bride of Christ. I know I may be naïve but I like to think there are churches out there that can still be held up as a biblical standard. Perfect? Never, but purity of doctrine? Absolutely. The body of Christ is filled with false teachers and sheep being led astray. This should not comes as a surprise to anyone since we have been warned about it throughout Scripture! Find a church that is preaching the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ and get back into the fellowship. If we can't find one then we should start one. I know people who are involved in online fellowships. This is not Facebook. It is a church of a small group of believers who gather online for services and the Word but who also know each other outside of that service setting. Is it ideal? No, but it is better than being alone, feeding our hurt. The third thing we need to examine is whether or not we were in a church at all.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. - 2Timothy 4: 3-4 (ESV)
I consistently preach that there are many people on the broad path and those that find the narrow gate are few. Despite the Bible teaching us this clearly we still confuse human measurements of success as being somehow a sign of godly approval. The reason why Joel Osteen can get 45,000 people to show up every week is simple. He is telling them exactly what their itching ears want to hear. Joseph Prince's popularity is not due to godly approval but rather because he suits the fleshly passions of those who seek to hear him. Wander off into myths? Dear Lord - how many people who claim to be Christians believe God wants them to be rich and comfortable? How many can scream, holler, shout and then writhe in what they call the Holy Ghost, but could not tell you what the word "Berean" means? How many seek out false signs and wonders but do not know the Bible speaks against such?
So we need to evaluate whether the hurt we are holding onto was even received within the actual church of Jesus Christ! The Purpose Driven Church teaches the new breed of pastors how to get rid of people who dare to dissent with them! It is no wonder there are more and more wounded sheep. The pastors are being taught to wound them! Then there are stories such as we are hearing out of Mars Hill Church where expelled members and expelled leaders where "shunned" by the lead pastor who taught the rest of the congregation how to shun them as well! Beloved, God knows exactly where you are, where you were, and where He wants you to go. We will never get there however as long as where we are is still languishing in pain about where we were. The final consideration today before we examine the key verses is to remember to always approach the Word of God from an expositional perspective.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. - 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (ESV)
Expositional preaching refers to exposing what God is trying to say to us through a particular Scripture. Topical preaching is when we want to speak about something and we seek Scripture to support the topic. What is the key difference there? Expositional preaching seeks what God has to say and topical deals with something we want to say. The same applies to how we approach the Bible as laypersons. I have seen far too many people wield the Bible as a weapon to denounce the church and support their hurt. Instead of the Word of God delivering them, it is used to build a sanctuary for their pain. For example, recently I saw people vigorously teaching that God does not support organized religion. How someone can read the New Testament and come to that conclusion is based squarely upon the hurt they have experienced. Paul goes to great lengths to discuss organized religion. Likewise, the same people propose the notion that there is no hierarchy within the body of Christ despite numerous verses teaching the opposite. They approach the Bible to prop up their pre-drawn conclusions about the church, which they have formed through their pain.
Perhaps the king of this principle known as eisegesis is Joseph Prince. Eisegesis is when you read your bias into the text. You approach the Word not to hear from God but to use God to support what you already feel or believe. For the hurt Christian, they approach the Word to convince themselves that they are justified in forsaking the fellowship. For Prince there is his false gospel of grace. He believes that God spoke to him divinely to preach a different gospel than what they Bible presents. One where the grace of God means that God is never angry with us, that there is no need for the law anymore, and that while this is not a license to sin, it doesn't matter if we do. Whenever Joseph Prince approaches the Holy Scriptures he does so to prove this false gospel as being correct. For example, there is absolutely no doubt that the context in Acts 4 and 5 reveal Ananias and Sapphira to be believers in Jesus Christ. Yet God punished them with death for lying to the Holy Spirit. This single story obliterates Prince's false gospel. So he did a sermon once designed to teach that they were not believers. An absurd and unbiblical charge based upon a desire to use the Bible instead of allowing God to speak through it. If we are not careful in our pain we can do the same thing. I have heard the hurt crowd actually argue that the pastoral role is unbiblical! This despite the fact that pastor simply means shepherd and there are a plethora of verses about shepherds. They then would go as far as to pretend that Timothy and Titus were not "pastoral letters." That they were not pastors at all. It was just a big conspiracy designed by Christian commentators. Please. This is why the Bible says not everyone is called to divide the Word of Truth. Why double honor is due those to preach and teach. Why they are held to a higher standard. While we are all called to do the work of a Berean, we are not all called to be teachers and preachers. There is a vast difference which the Bible makes abundantly clear but only if you approach it with a teachable spirit. You cannot be taught if you approach God's Word to defend yourself.
This brings us to our key verses for today. We are to not allow any corrupting talk to come out of our mouths. This does not mean we should not expose what is false. Corrupt refers to that which is evil, crooked, or tainted. When we approach the Bible to defend our pain we are approaching it as one who is tainted. Instead, our talk should be edifying. It should seek to build others up but notice the caveat - as fits the occasion. If someone is preaching a doctrine that leads to false conversion for example, it is edifying to correct the error. You are building the people up with the correct doctrine as you expose what is false and leading them astray.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. - Ephesians 5: 11 (ESV)