Have you noticed all the Christians apologizing for the church?
I have. It’s kind of the thing to do. We assume everyone out there has been hurt, wronged, isolated, burned or ostracized by the church. It’s almost the battle cry of my generation. “We’ve been emotionally wounded by the church!” Just yesterday, I read yet another Christian apologizing for all the other awful Christians out there. Ever since Donald Miller made it popular, some Christians just can’t resist telling everyone what jerks we’ve all been. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some things to apologize for. (And I’m not talking about cases of serious abuse.)
But when you stack up all the apologies, it makes you think that maybe the church is just an agent for pure evil. It’s almost like we’re inviting people to say, “Christians suck and I demand an apology!” I’m not here to apologize or take back apologies. If anyone should be pissed off at the church, it’s me. I’m here to ask why does it happen? Why does the relationship people are supposed to have with the church break down?
A Low-Maintanence Friend
Think about the least important relationship in your life. The person you have the lowest maintanence friendship with. The person you talk to once every few months, or even years. Most people probably have at least one of those friends. I’ve had several. One even told me he valued how low-maintanence we were. It was weird. It was also probably the last time we talked.
If that person were not in your life, would it make that much of a difference? Probably not. You already have the lowest possible investment in that person. If they decided to not talk to not call you in six months, it wouldn’t hurt you that badly. It’s probably impossible to be hurt by that person.
There’s some people who have that relationship with their church. It’s very low-maintanence. There’s no emotional investment, no risk. They sit on the fringes. If you don’t want to ever be hurt by the church, this is where you want to be.
A High-Maintanence Friend
Now think of the most emotionally risky relationship in your life – the one where you’ve invested the most. Probably the most emotionally risky thing anyone can do is have children. Right behind that is getting married. With either of those, you’re putting your heart and soul into that relationship. And your heart and soul can be crushed by your spouse or your kids. They can hurt you, disappoint you, burn you. Or you can just lose them, one way or another. Any way you look at it, you’re going to get hurt, sooner or later.
That’s where people need to be with the church. It needs to be an emotionally risky relationship. Any relationship that’s worth keeping has some level of emotional risk to it. That’s the only way you get anything out of it. Has anyone ever benefited from an emotionally distant marriage, or an absent friend? Same with church. You get out of it what you put into it.
I have come to believe that the people who are hurt the most by the church are the ones who care most about the church. How can you be hurt by something you don’t care about? Why would you be wounded by the thoughts or opinions of someone who you don’t value?
That’s just it. The more you become emotionally invested in the church, the more of yourself you put into it, the more vulnerable you are to disappointment and hurt. It’s the people who pour their hearts and souls into the church who can most have their hearts and souls completely stomped on by other Christians. Why did I get hurt by my church? Because I cared about it. If I were sitting on the fringes, I wouldn’t have cared what happened to it. I would’ve moved on.
The church relationship breaks down for the same reason any high-maintanence friendship or marriage breaks down. The love or friendship turns out to be conditional. Married people love each other, until they have unreconcilable differences. Isn’t that a trite reason for divorce? It just means those two people had love for the other that was conditional. The relationship breaks down because one person didn’t meet the other person’s conditions for being loved.
Church breaks down because Christians decide their love for others is conditional. Or their love for their church is conditional. So maybe you’re the person who didn’t meet Christians’ conditions for love. Maybe your church didn’t meet your conditions for love. It disappointed you, and you walked away. Either way, the result is the same.
In fact, I might say that given enough time, a person who is truly emotionally invested in the church won’t be able to not be disappointed or hurt by the people inside. Just like any other relationship. It’s inevitable.
Have you ever been hurt by Christians, or a church you were a part of? Tell us about it. Or, have you ever been the one to hurt the church, or other Christians? What do you think about the popularity of apologizing? Is there always room for an apology, or is it becoming a cliche?