Is it possible that the church can hurt your heart so profoundly that you question God?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Sometimes something good gets in the hands of people and we mess it up.
In this week’s Proverbs 31 Ministry OBS reading of The Mended Heart, I shared Amy’s story. She was a pastor’s daughter who grew up under legalistic and harsh parenting, all wrapped up in theology.
It was confusing. It created fear in her relationship with God because she feared her dad. It caused her to wonder if she would ever be good enough for God.
Maybe you identify with Amy.
When I wrote The Mended Heart, this was one of the hardest chapters to write because I love the church.
I travel around the world to share the Gospel (a privilege) and I see people loving others. I see pastors and their families sacrificing to love work-in-progress people. I see those who give, and who adopt and love others who have no voice, and who seek to share the Good News.
Yet it needed to be discussed because it’s a real issue. . . and because Jesus talked about it.
You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin.
Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the important things you should have done, though you should not have left the others undone either. You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel. (Matthew 23: 23-24 CEV)
What is religious abuse?
It’s the use of intimidation, guilt and fear to control and manipulate behavior in the name of God.
This might be from a parent who uses God to control.
Or a church that teaches truth out of context to bend believers to their will or rules.
It can be at the hands of a work-of-progress Christians whose heart is pure, but methods are immature.
What do we do about it?
We place these truths in our hearts.
We are the church. . . all of us.
The messy, the work-in-progress, the mature, the hungry, the doer, the A-type personalities, and the B-type personalities. Those who sacrifice, and those who receive. Those whose skin color or culture is different than yours. Those who live next door to you and those who live across the world.
We can heal and find our place in the church
If you were part of an unhealthy church doctrine or people, there’s still a place for you in the Church. The church isn’t a building. It’s a movement of Christ followers that began the moment Jesus began His ministry, and it will go on until He returns.
Maybe there wasn’t a place for you in a church building, but there’s a place for you in the Church. We all have a place.
Find Jesus in the mix
People aren’t God.
Amy had to sort through to find that truth. Her dad loved God. He thought He was leading His baby girl home, but the reality is that His version of faith was skewed.
Jesus became her compass.
Did a teaching resonate with what Jesus said or did?
If not, she centered on truth rather than people.
Did Jesus ever condone spiritual abuse?
No, He spoke against it so she separated her upbringing from Jesus’ love and that became her identity.
Do you have to stay in a place where you feel burdened rather than free in your faith?
If you feel that you’ll make people angry or that you’ll be punished for seeking a healthy church environment, then reassess the hold on your heart.
Let’s began healing as we discover a healthier view of Jesus and this beautiful thing called the Church.
It’s not too late to join the current Mended Heart study. It’s all there for you to take in or study with a friend at your convenience. You can get as involved as you want. There are a lot of different opportunities.