Mahatma Gandhi said, “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian”. He went on to say, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Anyone who has spent time in a Christian fellowship such as Church or other Christian organization has been hurt or knows someone who has been hurt by those inside. Of course people hurting people isn’t a new concept. The world can be cold and callous. In fact, knowing this about the world, we develop coping skills to help us not get hurt. We use our internal radar every day to observe, monitor and deflect those who we’ve determined are not safe people. When we suffer deep emotional hurts, it is most often at the hands of those we are in a relationship with, those who have the capacity to hurt us. We lower our radar, thus making us vulnerable. Truth be known, we crave healthy, trusting relationships. Healthy relationships improve our lives on many levels. The Bible gives many examples to back this up. One example can be found in Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.
So, why is being hurt by those who serve in a ministry so different than being hurt by others? Think about the relationships you are in with friends or your spouse, were you attracted to them by their promises of a better life, refuge, or love? Probably not. However, this is the model we as Christians use to grow the following of Jesus. He set the groundwork and taught us to help people, love people and bear others burdens. What a tall order, but Jesus did it so well. The result, people came from all over to get a glimpse of Him, to find peace or healing, and they weren’t disappointed. Jesus taught us to love God and love people, help the needy, be a servant to others and put others ahead of ourselves. Who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with this person? So we come. We come with high expectations of finding love, trust, and a deep spiritual experience. We lower our radar and open our heart for an expected blessing. When our expectation is met with rude, pompous, self-righteous encounters we are cut to our core. Naïve you say? You have a responsibility in this too, you say? But wasn’t the promise, “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light (Matthew 11:28-30)”?
It’s confusing isn’t it? It’s no wonder when those not grounded in their faith encounter a hurtful experience they run. How about when that person seeking answers is drawn in by the promise of redemption, hope, peace and purpose only to be confronted with hypocrisy. Or the excited Christian who has high expectations of being in the presence of brothers and sisters who deeply care, only to be disappointed or hurt to learn there was nothing different than anywhere else. The disappointment of words spoken not matching actions leads to mistrust. But not just mistrust of those who inflicted the injury, mistrust of Christians and even mistrust of God.
Why do some people who claim to want to help in Jesus’ name fall short, so much that people get hurt? Why do some people within these Christian organizations seem so critical? After all, doesn’t the Bible teach that everyone has sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23)?
Why do Ministries faced with financial challenges believe sending God’s helpers away will assist in alleviating their challenges? After all, isn’t it Jesus who called them? Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Matthew 9:37-38)”. How can they justify actions and behavior which are contrary to the teachings of Jesus and hide behind statements such as, “we must be good stewards of what God has entrusted us with”? Did they forget what Jesus taught about meeting impossible challenges? Remember when Jesus was preaching to the multitudes in a remote location and it was getting late? The disciples told Jesus they should send the multitude away and let them fend for themselves for food. Jesus responded by telling His disciples, you feed them. His disciples protested saying, we don’t have enough resources to meet this need! Did Jesus change the plan? Did he realize he had a challenge too great? No, Jesus told them to have the people sit down and prepare to eat.
Why do Christian ministries often allow outside influences to divert them from what they know God has called them to do? Wasn’t Jesus criticized from outside for keeping company with tax collectors and prostitutes? He didn’t send them away fearing for His reputation. In fact, he stood up for them claiming they were the ones he came for. He went on to tell those in leadership, more than your sacrifices, I want you to show mercy (Mat 9:13).
We often hear people preemptively state (before delivering the hurting blow), I prayed about this; as if to say, I just got off the phone with Jesus and He is cool with it. Our prayers have two steps, talk and listen. The later being the most important. When we are unsure, we go to the roadmap he gave us in the Bible. If our decisions don’t match the character of God outlined in His word, it’s not from God. If the outcome is going to hurt people, it’s not from God. If the direction leads in any other path than love God and Love people, it’s not from God.
If we’re being honest, we all have our moments of darkness. Those times people are better off staying away from us. After all, that’s why we needed a savior, when left to ourselves we have a tendency to lean to the darkness.
The Bible provides instruction for staying on track, for maintaining the course set by Jesus. It outlines how we can make our words and actions match. It begins by teaching that faith is the core element needed to please God. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1). Unfortunately, faith is often the first thing that goes when fear arrives. Without faith we are walking alone and while our speech hasn’t changed the way we make decisions has. We cannot “trust in the Lord with all our whole heart and lean not on our own understanding” without faith (Proverbs 3:5, 6). Without faith we stop acknowledging God for the answers and allowing Him to direct our paths. Without faith we lose the ability to love people the way God tells us to do so (1 Corinthians 13). Our faith in God and His word empower us to fulfill this impossible task God has called us to. Our faith in God helps to empower us to love and serve and help hurting people in His name, without faith, we can find ourselves helping to hurt people in His name.