This morning I listened to the Podcast, Let’s Talk, where The Gospel Coalition’s Jackie Hill Perry, Melissa Kruger and Jasmine Holmes discussed the topic, Overcoming Church Hurt. I don’t know about you, but I’ve received my fair share of hurt within the walls of the church from brothers and sisters in Christ. And while the Lord has used each and every one of my wounds to change, refine and prune me, I can’t say I would want to go through any of those situations again.
Several years ago, when I was still quite new to Women’s Ministry leadership, I received an email from a woman who had been at a WM event the evening before. She was livid. Someone had cut her off in a conversation she was having and hadn’t even apologized or, for that matter, realized the great offense she had caused her. For the writer of the email, this was the final straw. She was leaving the church and she, along with a close friend, would be starting their own church. She was convinced that her Sunday morning gathering would be a place where no one would get her feelings hurt.
Over the years I’ve learned some of what does and doesn’t work when dealing with hurts – both those that I’ve received and those I’ve given:
I’ve occasionally wondered how that Sunday gathering those wounded women started worked out for them. I have a feeling that they ended up disappointed simply because they had such high expectations of each other – as well as a sense of entitlement to their right to be justified and vindicated.
With those women as an example, here I add one more point – and perhaps it’s the most crucial and gospel-centered: we must be quick to justify others, but slow to justify ourselves. It’s not that we’re called to forgive others (though we are!), but that that we need to be forgiven constantly, not only by God, but by others as well.
In all these situations, may we be propelled by the Cross, which not only is the means of our forgiveness and reconciliation to God, but which also enables us to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility to count others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3).
“In like a lion, out like a lamb.” While this statement is traditionally used to describe the month of March, I confess that more and more I’ve been mentally comparing it to 2020 while replacing “lamb” with “Lamb.” Let me elaborate.
With a husband in the US Public Health Service, Covid-19 has been part of our daily dialogue since mid-February when he spent two weeks in California assisting the Diamond Princess passengers followed by two weeks of home quarantine. My boys’ soccer coach thought we were making an elaborate excuse when we said we had to miss the first few practices of the season in order to isolate. My how times have quickly changed!
From March through May, the world became obsessed with the Pandemic, yet I noticed that God was rarely mentioned (except at church, of course) by anyone. From high to low I had the impression that science and human will would save the day. How many times did we hear something like: “We will get through this together!”
Enter June and the riots. As people watched the brutal murder of George Floyd and the ensuing violence, it seemed that a shift occurred. Yes, frustration and anger and fear are still high, but from many diverse platforms the name of God is being proclaimed as the remedy to what ails us. I pray that 2020 will be remembered less as the year of Coronavirus and racial division, and more as a true Great Awakening when Americans turned their hearts back towards the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
My friend Virginia and I have been Bible study and discipleship partners for many years. We have been using a rather unorthodox methodology recently – but we love it. When we begin a new book and do the overview, I find all the characters and do a thorough background check on them, as much as possible.
Virginia who is an intrepid world traveler, finds all the places mentioned and does a study on the history and culture of the place. We discuss these findings as we go through the book together. Right now we’re in Acts, and Acts is rife with fascinating characters and interesting places. When Virginia describes a place she has traveled or lived herself, I can hear the pigs squealing at birth on a pig farm in the Australian outback, or smell the crusty rolls from a perfectly original bakery on a hillside in Crete. She does the same with the cities where the heroes of Acts have traveled. As always, we discover that not one word, place or person is insignificant in Scripture.
Last week we reached Acts 13, where Paul and Barnabas were sent out from the new church in Antioch. In the context of our present racially sensitive world , I was amazed by the elders and leaders in the church.
Here’s what the elder board looked like at the First Christian Church of Antioch:
Barnabas- a Levite who was living in Cyprus. He probably moved there so he could buy land, which a Levite was not permitted to do in Israel.
Simeon Niger – a black man from North Africa
Lucius -- a Cyrene Greek, possibly from North Africa as well
Manaen – a childhood and lifelong friend of Herod, so part of the Roman elite who oppressed Jews
Saul – a sordid background of murder and terrorism
Now there’s a diverse leadership team if there ever was one! I would probably have had reservations about any one of these men if I was attending the church for the first time. Economic, ethnic, class, race and status diversity would be visible to all. And that was the point. From Pentecost to the founding of His church, our Father has been intentionally diverse. Our challenge in response to the precedent that was set from the founding of the church is to find godly leaders who represent the world wide family of God in all of its unique levels and kinds of diversity.
I’ll leave it up to you to ask Virginia to explain why Antioch was the ideal place to commission the first missionary team.