"It's a WEB I'll tell ya..." :)
As a bit of a follow up to my last post on judging and spurred on by a comment to my last post I want to expand on the concept of judging. I have two stories for you and then a biblical conclusion.
My children were very small. We were a family of four at that time…we went down south of town to help start a new congregation. It was a good group of people…a good experience for my kids…everything seemed to be going well. The bible was solid from the pulpit, the fellowship was fun…We felt good about being there! YEA…a good beginning! A few years into our time there my marriage fell apart. Things happen…it was a bad experience…we all have them…but that isn’t the story (besides I don’t want to rehash things that could hurt those I love)…
|Where there is a will there is a way!|
ANYHOO…I was out in California for a short time trying to put things back together…and when they couldn’t be I came back…The kids and I returned to this beloved congregation hoping to find peace and fellowship once again with this church family. Not long after our return I got a visit from some members of this congregation. (IMPORTANT TO NOTE that there were no elders yet at this little church…so, like I posted earlier we were members worshipping together with no spiritual leaders yet appointed) These “members” wanted me to tell them the details of my then separation and impending divorce. I told them that my soul was OK with God and that it would be a scriptural divorce but my kids were in the next room and I didn’t want to tell them any details PLUS, WOW, I was devastated and just needed support…I didn’t want to rehash and the details were none of their business!) The scripture tells us there is one way that God considers a marriage to be broken with no further ties to one another. That was my reason. I was very plainly told that unless I told them the details I was no longer welcome at the church! KICKED OUT???!!!...WOW…(For effect I invite you to remember the scene in the Jim Carrey movie – “Fun with Dick and Jane” where he very innocently got caught in a scandal and was going to be indicted)…(Remember the scene where he hears about it on the news and he goes a little nuts saying INDICTED, INDICTED, INDICTED over and over??) Well, that was me…only insert KICKED OUT! (and I didn’t go to a bar afterwards) HA…yes, we can find humor in just about everything if we look for it!
WHAT HAPPENED? Well, we left that congregation and went to another in town. I was young…I just ran; full of hurt and shame. NOT the way it should have gone. Had I been older and wiser I WOULD have…and I SHOULD have asked them for their scriptural reason for what they were doing to us. We would have sought the scripture to find their Godly reason. It would have ended with them finding no scriptural reason for what they were doing. We might have been able to save that relationship…at least that is what I hope would have happened. Instead I was judged very harshly; and it wasn’t their place to do so. Had there been elders I may have told them more, as they would have been responsible for my soul and I would have needed their guidance…but I still do not believe I was obligated to tell details to even them. I had grown up with these people…they knew my character and my parents character…It should have been enough. Again, the scripture in Friday’s post will serve here.
|Do you ever just feel like hiding in the bushes?? Yep...I did at that time...|
EVENT 2: a little while later as a single mom I took my children and myself to a little town so I could finish college and get my degree in hopes of providing my children with a better life. I chose this little town because of the strong church and the Christian college in that town. (THAT was always my first consideration back then; and would be today were it my decision alone) The day I decided to finish my degree in a safe place for my kids was when my son was shot at by a neighbor when he was taking out the trash! (another story for another day)…it was the last straw. We were living in a not so safe area of town near by the secretarial job I had at the time. I wanted us OUT…and a degree was the only way I could see I could provide for them in a better way. MORE CHOICES!
It turned out to be a good place for them as the youth group was strong; the bible was solid from the pulpit, and the college kids were incredible for my kids and me. The church for me however was not so great. I learned at that place that judgment was my fate. I had not been there long before a rumor started that I was seen at bars…and was a…how can I say it nicely…a “tramp”. FUNNY story to that rumor…as we know rumors are best when there is a bit of truth to them.
THE REAL STORY WAS THIS: New in town there was a married woman from church in town who came up to me and befriended me. NICE! She asked me if she could take me to a fun place for dinner to get acquainted. YEA!...a new friend!...So, she picked me up one evening and we ended up In the bar of a hotel on the outskirts of town; about 8 miles from my house. I was very uncomfortable and shocked that a Christian would think this appropriate! I gained my composure pretty quickly and turned around (after gawking at the people in various stages of drunkenness) to ask her to take me home and saw her leaving with a man (not her husband) to go upstairs! WOAH!...Yes, it was less than 10 minutes there!...I was stranded. I knew almost no one, but had a name of another church person, so I called them and asked if they could come pick me up and take me home ( I explained that it wasn’t my choice of places, but did not repeat the woman’s name who brought me)…I was embarrassed! This person did…but, in a small town news travels fast…and before you know it a rumor had begun and I was ostracized at church. When I went to church people would get up and move leaving me the only person on the pew. Thankfully my kids sat with the youth group so never knew as far as I could tell. Those were tough times AT a time when I needed the fellowship of my Christian brothers and sisters! It got better as the years went on…and the Christian kids at the college were wonderful to me as well as my children…but that beginning was HARD. The ugly monster was judgment! Please insert all the scripture from my last post here…we have no right. THIS is the kind of judgment we are taught NOT to exercise. The truth of the matter is…if ANYONE had been interested in knowing the truth…they could have a)…asked me (no one ever did)…or b)…come to visit me (only college kids and a couple college professors came by)…because when I wasn’t working or studying I was sitting on my porch swing right out in plain view! For three and a half years…That swing got some use I’ll tell you!
Read Romans 15: 5-7 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of UNITY among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with ONE heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ACCEPT one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
I’ve been asked by my friends who I’ve shared these stories with WHY I didn’t leave the church. My answer is always the same. As I read the scripture I learn that there is only one true church; Christ’s church. Read Ephesians 4:1-5…(which also speaks to unity with one another…giving us guidelines as to how we should be with one another…specifically vs. 2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient; bearing with one another in love”) Christ is the head of His church and from everything I see and read and study I was a part of that. WHY would I leave and go elsewhere if I believed I was in the one true church? Besides…it was the members…the humans; making human mistakes that was behaving the way they were…that wasn’t God’s fault! It still hurts, and it shapes a person, but I still want to serve God in the way He wants me to…so on I go.
|AND THE SUN ALWAYS COMES UP!!|
With my added years of life, and my added years of study I want to stay and try to find my responsibilities to the church family I now belong to and help us all to understand that people can be damaged when we judge. Hopefully we will all find our way together as God intended.