Learning To Love Again
In the previous Revival Fire Newsletter, I promised an article specifically for Christian soldiers who have been hurt by the Church. (Remember, we are in a spiritual war and, more to the point, soldiers divinely commissioned to fight this war. The enemy is working diligently to take us out of action as that is his only hope for victory.)
Bringing healing to wounded soldiers is a burden that lies heavily upon my heart. It will probably not surprise you that I have many friends whom the Church has deeply hurt. As a result of their wounds, many went through seasons in their lives when they refused to enter the doors of a church because the pain in doing so was simply too much for them to endure. They now still love the Lord and read His Word and even go to conferences, but getting involved in a church is the last thing on their minds.
Once I made the promise to write this article, I had the worst case of "writer’s block!" I prayed for weeks, asking the Lord for the words that would truly touch the hearts of His Church’s wounded soldiers. I pleaded for words that would compel them to embark upon a journey of healing and wholeness so that they could take their place back in the army of the Lord.
While in this process, the Lord showed me that the "block" I was experiencing was not a block at all, but a wall of pain. He also revealed to me that I was one of these wounded soldiers! I, too, had been hurt by people in the Church. I, too, had gone through a period of time when I would not go to church for fear of being hurt again. My friends, I was a wounded soldier, although I tried to argue with Him, "Lord, I’m healed! Look; I’m attending church! I have forgiven everyone!"
He then gently showed me where I sat when attending church: way up in the balcony, off in the far corner, hidden in the very back row. With this vision, I rationalized, "Hey, I’m there, aren’t I? Just because I don’t make eye contact with anyone or speak to anyone or… Anyway, I still give, I sing, I take notes. -Yet, the more I tried to justify the place I had taken at church – the church where I had once led a Bible study – the more He showed me the walls I had put between myself and everyone in that building. Clearly, I had not forgiven those who had hurt me.
As I sit here typing these words with tears streaming down my face, I am reminded of the tender way that the Lord brought me to a place where I would seek Him for healing. (My friends, He knows exactly where we are spiritually, emotionally, and mentally throughout each phase of our lives.) I actually thought He had put a burden on my heart to help strengthen wounded soldiers in His army. I even hoped to usher the army of God into a new level of healing so that it would be better prepared for the days ahead. Nevertheless, even though soldiers of the King must stand together, the Lord, in His mercy, wanted to lead me to a place of healing, too.
He showed me that I had not forgiven those in my church who had hurt me. Thus, in my unforgiveness, I was walking in sin. This was a very hard revelation for me to accept without qualifications. You see, I had been misjudged, condemned, and gossiped about by the very people whom I had loved, nurtured, and cared for. They felt betrayed because I was their leader, and yet I was going through a divorce. Disappointment and wounds occurred on both sides. I sadly witnessed how the enemy uses this type of situation to bring pain, division, and unforgiveness between believers, with the ultimate goal of destroying both parties.
Several things can lead us into situations where forgiveness, or the lack thereof, can lead to our destruction. For example, if our leaders are in sin, they need to repent and we need to forgive. If they do not, we still need to forgive and allow the Lord to bring healing into our own lives. Then, we need to pray for them. If we allow the sins of our leaders to negatively affect our walks with the Lord, or our participation in the army of God, then the enemy gains a two-fold victory. He has caused the leaders to fall, and he has caused us to do likewise. Moreover, God will hold each of us responsible for our actions on judgment day. This last point is a powerful reason why we all must forgive and continue to move forward spiritually.
If we are leaders who have fallen into sin, then we need to repent – whole-heartedly repent. We also need to seek the face of God to find out where the weaknesses are in our armor so that we never fall prey to that sin again. If inner-healing is needed, then we must seek out the means to walk through such healing. If lack of a Word and prayer life has caused us to fall, then we need to learn diligence here, regardless of how full our days are. We must make these disciplines a priority; this is war, and we are God’s soldiers! If we are not training our spirits properly, then how do we expect to stand in this battle, let alone win the war?
Pastors, leaders, teachers, worship leaders, members of the choir, ushers, missionaries, PKs, and MKs all live in fish bowls. Their lives are constantly viewed by the church body. They live under perpetual scrutiny. Everyone is watching and waiting to see what they will do and how they will react. People love them when they do things perfectly, but when they stumble (and they will stumble) many within the Church are ill-equipped to handle their falls. Regrettably, rather than embrace and love them through heart-felt repentance, they judge them, attack them, and turn their backs on them.
Friends, this pattern needs to stop. Satan is destroying our Church, leader by leader, member by member. Whether it is because we have placed them upon a pedestal or they have blatantly sinned, leaving us wounded and bleeding, it is not our place to judge their hearts. Rather, we are to love and forgive them. So, if someone in leadership (or one of their family members) has wounded you, forgive him. Now is the time to learn how to walk in love.
In I Corinthians 13:4-8 (Amplified Bible), Paul teaches about the person who has learned to love.
-Love is patient;
-Love is kind;
-Love is never envious;
-Love is not conceited or prideful;
-Love is not rude;
-Love does not insist on its own rights or its own ways;
-Love is not self-seeking;
-Love takes no account of the evil done to it (it does not hold a grudge);
-Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail;
-Love bears up under anything and everything that comes;
-Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person;
-Love never fails.
If we have been hurt, we need to forgive. If we have hurt others, we need to repent. Both paths must come together in love. In an equally poignant way, Paul states that it does not matter what we do in the Church if we fail to walk in love. Indeed, without love, the exercising of the gifts of the Spirit and the giving of charity will not benefit us in any way (I Cor 13:1-3).
My wounded comrades in arms, the key is love. If we return love for hate, then we are doing as Christ did. Recall that men beat our Lord, sentenced Him to death, mocked Him, and crucified Him. After all of this, He responded, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" (Lk 23:34). This is love, my friends!
The situation is this: our sins put Jesus on the cross. He knew that you and I would be born, and He knew that we would sin. Yet, despite this, He loved us enough to suffer and die on the cross so that we could have a relationship with Him on earth and everlasting life with Him in heaven. If Jesus could do this for us, who are we not to forgive one another? All of the sins committed against the Lord during our lives add up to far more than what people can do to us.
We must learn to walk in love and live a life of forgiveness. If we do, healing and restoration will come much easier. We will all the sooner take our places back in the army of God alongside our brothers and sisters, ready to fight this war. This restoration is vital because we need each other now more than ever.
So, learn to love again, my friends. It is essential for your survival in this war! Get out of your homes, get down from the balconies, and get involved in your churches. You need the people there, and they need you!
Blessings in Him,