One of the most harmful things we as Christians can do, is to invalidate someone else’s religious experience, especially those that have been life altering for someone else. We need to remember that the Bible is a guide – it’s a helper, but it is not a replacement for God. We each experience God in our own way. Sometimes we are challenged by other Christians to examine our own beliefs, and that is a good thing. It can strengthen our faith, if we let it, and make us more open to new ideas.
Many Christians have left churches that were too political, too judgemental, too liberal in beliefs, and too harsh and stodgy in their beliefs. We are tearing the Kingdom of God down, rather than building it up. Each of us has, at one time or another had a part in this, even those of us who have left churches for these very reasons. It’s time to examine the log in our own eyes, before we look to the splinters in our brothers and sisters eyes.
Ask yourself today, how am I sharing God’s love and mercy with others? Am I acting justly, extending mercy and walking humbly with my God or do I need to ask God to forgive me and help me change my ways?
It’s a daily process and a daily choice we must all make. There is no “one way” to experience Christ. This is why God made each of us special and unique. We all bring something awesome to the table. We need to learn to recognize and utilize our God-given gifts for the greater good of humanity, so that instead of tearing others down, we can bring out the best in each other. This honors God.
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2 (The Message)
When we are hurt by other Christians (and it will happen), we can remember that this is not what God has intended for us, and we can pray for our debtors, instead of becoming angry and seeking revenge. Many times, I’ve wanted to put my debtors on blast on the internet, and many times I have refrained. Unfortunately, sometimes I have gone ahead and said terrible things, but I have always regretted them. I have always known that what I did was sin, and it may have led another Christian to sin. I can assure you, this is not good feeling. Don’t do it.
God asks us to love each other, even our enemies. This is hard, especially when you’ve been betrayed by someone you trusted, like a Pastor, Priest, Bishop, Deacon, or anyone else working within the church. Many of us tend to place our religious leaders and fellow Christians in a whole different category, elevated above the rest of the world, and this is so dangerous for us to do. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes from time to time. I agree that as Christians we should hold our clergy to a higher standard, but with that, we also need to remember to pray for their spiritual welfare more often and to provide for their needs, as they provide for ours on a daily or weekly basis. Spiritual leaders can enter into burnout fairly quickly, and are tempted in the same or similar ways as you and I are, yet they’re more publicly recognized. Stop and take a moment to consider how difficult that must be, especially in the midst of a personal storm.
It is hard for those of us who have felt betrayed to reach out and love, or even trust again, but it is important that we try. I’ve been on both sides of a rich and loving Christian experience, and I have to say, I’d rather be in the midst of a storm with helpers, than go through another storm alone.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
***Update 03/12/14: This is something I’m needing to re-read myself, as I’ve just encountered a week of bullying and harassment from a church member. I know it’s hard, brothers and sisters, but we must forgive each other. We know not what we do when we harm another.