If there’s one thing that leaves me completely aghast, it’s Christians hurting one another and using religion to justify their behavior, or citing it as the reason that they didn’t step in to defend the hurting, vulnerable party.
It’s the child who is abused on the mission field or in the church, but no one does anything about it (or it’s covered up) because it could “hurt the ministry.”
It’s the woman whose self-worth is torn down brick by painstaking brick by her husband, but nobody says anything because they believe divorce is wrong and are afraid to rock the boat.
It’s the pastor whose personal life is in shambles, but he can’t be honest and seek help for fear of losing his job.
It’s the person who tried to seek help for their marriage/addiction/child/past/problem from their brothers and sisters in Christ, but was rebuffed and deeply wounded by the experience.
Here’s what I am slowly coming to realize. All of those situations have to do with “saving face,” with putting external expressions of faith ahead of internal relationships with God and others.
The “ministry” becomes more important than the child.
The marriage becomes more important than the individuals in it.
The position becomes more important than the man.
Maintaining the illusion of holiness becomes more important than having authentic, caring relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This, my friends, is *@!#.
While I certainly believe that what we do and how we act is very important, proper behavior isn’t going to do a person any good if their soul is decaying under their shiny exterior. Sure, it might make everyone more comfortable for the time being. But left untreated, spiritual gangrene tends to spread, eating away at our insides and poisoning our souls until we’re more like whitewashed tombs than living, loving human beings. Until we’re dealing death instead of life, because it’s all we have to give.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong of a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We can do and say all the right things. We can try to make others do and say all the right things. Like the Pharisees, we’re experts at that. But at the end of the day, it’s what’s in our hearts that matters.
The good news is that none of us are beyond hope. Even if our hearts are so wounded that we doubt our ability to recover. Or even if our hearts bear more resemblance to stone-cold tombstones than life-giving flesh. Remember the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37?
“Son of man, can these bones live?…They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open up your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live…”
That’s Good News for all of us.
Now, how can we do a better job of sharing that Good News with those around us? Of tending to people instead of institutions? Relationships instead of reputation? Hearts instead of their overflow?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. -Matthew 11:28-30
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. -Matthew 12:20