When being a member or the church hurts...

Every pastor has experienced it.  Preparing a sermon, preparing to enter the pulpit to preach God's Word to God's people, but his thinking is clouded by hurtful words that still echo in his head.

A member...a loved and trusted member of the church...said something deeply hurtful to the pastor.  Maybe the comment was about him personally.  Maybe it was about something the he does or doesn't do.  Perhaps, worst of all, it was said about his wife or family.

Such comments are deeply hurtful.  I could give you personal examples, but I won't out of love and respect for the individuals involved and because it would be poor pastoral practice to do so.

How can a pastor deliver God's Word in a faithful way in such a situation?  The temptation is to use the pulpit to vent about the situation or to "address" the thinking that led to such comments.  Or not to preach at all, because who wants to talk to people who have hurt you so deeply?  The temptation is real, but to do so would be a HUGE mistake because it would simply lead to more hurt, more division, and it wouldn't resolve anything.

So how can the pastor preach a sermon in a faithful way after being so deeply hurt?

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  (Colossians 3:12-13)

The only way to keep from blowing up, the only way to preach faithfully instead of vindictively, the only way to bring the Good News of Jesus in such a situation is to first remember how God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.  Jesus has forgiven me of more sins and greater sins than anyone could possibly commit against me.  I can forgive because I have been forgiven.  I can act in love towards those who don't deserve love because I was loved by Jesus when I was unworthy of love. 

Of course, this isn't merely an issue for pastors.  Every Christian will experience being hurt (intentionally or unintentionally) by someone else in the church.  It stinks, but that's the reality of the church on this side of eternity because it is made up of sinners.  

When someone hurts us, the typical reaction is either fight or flight.  You probably know your tendency.

For those whose typical reaction is to fight, remember the words of Jesus; 
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 
(Matthew 5:38-39)

The temptation is to fight, but Christ would instead have us refuse to respond to pain by inflicting it back.  How can we do that? Only when we remember that that's how Christ responded to us.  "Father, forgive them..." said Jesus from the cross.  He forgave His disciples who deserted Him.  He forgave me the countless times I sinned against Him.  Since He has forgiven me, I can forgive. 

For those whose typical reaction is flight, remember that Jesus responded to those who hurt Him, not by fleeing, but by willingly staying and offering Himself on their behalf. Today, Jesus still willingly stays with Christians, though we have repeatedly acted in ways that are hurtful to Him.  He doesn't leave us because of our hurtful words and actions, which is a good thing because if He did, none of us would have any hope of salvation or a right relationship with God.

The temptation to flee is real.  The thoughts roll through the mind; "They don't deserve me if they are going to treat me that way."  "If he/she thinks that I'm going to help out with that project at church after what he/she said..."  

Yet after mankind's rebellion against God, God didn't flee from us but came to us.  Jesus was born to restore that relationship; A relationship that mankind had broken and had no right to have restored.

The truth is, whether you are a pastor or a baby Christian, if you are part of the church you will experience pain, sometimes pain that is caused by fellow Christians. But for we who are in Christ, fight and flight are no longer options.  

To love, to forgive, to serve as Christ has loved, forgiven, and served us...that is our new, gospel inspired and Holy Spirit powered, response. 

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