but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48 ESV
“I love Jesus, but I don’t like the church.”
Yet the church is Jesus’ bride. His choice to bring the gospel to the world.
Still some argue:
The church is full of hypocrites.
The church rejected me and abandoned me in my time of need.
I felt betrayed by those who are supposed to be kind and compassionate.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
When Jesus called us to join together, He understood the pain of betrayal. Not only did one of his inner circle sell Him for 30 pieces of silver, but Judas betrayed Him with a kiss. An act of endearment became the ultimate act of hypocrisy.
Yet Jesus went to the Garden and prayed knowing He would be betrayed. Still He went to meet together with His disciples who in a few hours would flee or deny Him. He prayed with men He knew were going to let Him down and He knew the pain would be real and deep.
Still Jesus calls us to meet together knowing that churches are populated by people. That people, even the ones who love God well, will make mistakes. Being hurt at one church should not shut the door on all the other churches. Just like having one disciple who betrayed Jesus and one who denied Him and the rest just took off didn’t keep Jesus going back to meeting with His disciples after He rose from the dead.
God’s plan includes people. Human beings are the way He will spread His gospel to the world. His plan means that people can misuse His church, they can twist His message, they can hurt others even when they are trying to serve God well.
So how do we walk brave back into a church after being burned by one in the past? How do we smile through the fear?
We rest in God’s grace and truth by living out our faith and reminding ourselves who we are in Christ.
We pray for guidance for the local church God wants us to attend. Ask a friend, check out Facebook, find the church’s website. Check out their statement of beliefs and ask God to help you find the place where you will grow in the love and knowledge of God.
Put on our big boy or big girl pants and go. Ask God to us give the courage and grace to obey His command to not give up meeting together. Set our clothes out the night before, set our alarm, and get our rears out of bed.
Extend grace and love. People are people inside the church and outside it. Jesus even said some of the folks inside the church are not really of Jesus. So when a church hurts us we need to ask God to help us heal, help the church heal, and help us all love Him even more. Let us be peacemakers, not fault-finders.
Father God it is too easy to be hurt in a church and leave the Church all together. Help us to be people who love You enough that we brave the difficulties of loving Your bride – the church – well. Help us to be people who seek healing from You. May we be people who do not wallow in bitterness and unforgiveness, but rejoice in reconciliation and forgiveness. Help us to learn to love Your bride and may we be brave to connect at a church for Your glory and honor. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.