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I am a Twitter follower or more like a Twitter watcher. I follow some prominent people of faith, and one of those people is Beth Moore. She recently tweeted out a photo of this t-shirt her husband bought for her, and the message caught my attention.

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“The House (the church) That Built Me.”

Such a simple sentence but can be interpreted differently. She responded to the photo, “And it’s the dang truth. While all hell was breaking loose at home, there was the church. I took out a lot of my aggression on handbells.”

If you don’t know Beth Moore’s story, I recommend you read, Get out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance. In the book, she touches upon her past sexual abuse as a young girl and her healing journey. She found refuge in the church during the tragic events of her upbringing. Praise God for her healing journey, the church, and how God has used her to speak healing into the lives of other women.

But I read that phrase with a different perspective.

I recently had lunch with a friend, and I had to apologize to her. Several years ago she reached out to me during a very dark point in her life. I directed her situation to the leaders of a church. It was messy, and she needed more than I could offer for help. The summary of her story is that the church did not help her and I wasn’t there for her either. She is now on the road to healing, but the church deeply wounded her. I am sorry to say, that I include myself in being a contributor to her pain and resentment.

Growing up in the church, I know this type of pain all too well. My friend is a part of a group of people who read the message on that t-shirt and interpret it very differently than Beth Moore. For some of us, the church has been a source of pain, and it hasn’t been pretty. Scratch that! For some of us, it’s been downright ugly.

If I could take you down the history of the church in my own life, it would contain sordid details of hurt, abuse, adultery, hypocrisy, pride, legalism, false teaching… And that’s just me as a bystander, not the pain and stings I have felt personally from the church. And by the church, I mean the community of Christ-followers I or others were among; be it an individual church, ministry, or community.

I have seen family members and friends deeply wounded by fellow Christians. I have witnessed blatant sin not addressed in the church. I have felt let down over and over again by the church. Yet, here I am laying that all down to say I am beyond grateful for that “house” that built me.

Every sting, every wound, every misstep by leadership, each painful experience among the community of Christ-followers has brought me closer to Christ. I could have chosen to get bitter and let my heart find those dark places of resentment that Satan uses to pull people away from Christ and His followers. But somewhere along the way, I realized what God was teaching me. I let Him use every painful church experience I felt or witnessed to draw me closer to His Word, His will for my life, and (yes!) to His imperfect, sinful, mess of people He calls His church.

I found freedom in the knowledge of “The House That Built Me.” I found it by embracing my growing up in “the church” and how God has used every experience (good and bad) to continuously shape my faith, my character, my interactions with people, my view of Christ-followers, and my spiritual journey. And let me tell you there is freedom in letting go of the pain and loving God’s people despite the hurt.

Now I am not excusing bad church behavior. God hates sin, and he wants the church to rescue people out of sin. Loving people is loving them out of their sin. I am merely pointing to the fact that eventually, we have to come to terms with our personal relationship with Christ within or outside the walls of the church. That means dealing with our bitterness and forgiving.

I know that not everyone is ready to find that place of letting go of the hurt and pain that the church may have caused you. But I recommend you take the journey to get there- in your own time. God is patient! I guarantee you there’s freedom on this path.

My faith journey will continue with old and new friends, churches, and faith communities along the way. I can also list all the wonderful blessings, experiences, teachings, and people that God has brought into my life through the church community. I am still learning, still growing, and still asking forgiveness when I fail to be “the church” to others God has put in my life. I pray I will continue to grow more in the knowledge of God, follow His Word and the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life, and let the house of God (the church) continue to shape who I am in Christ through the good, the bad, and the ugly. He’s building me day by day, and I am forever grateful.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  (Hebrews 10: 23-25)

 

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I don’t know Jen Hatmaker. I don’t follow her on social media and I have only read a few of her posts or articles that other friends have shared. I know she has a beautiful family with adoptive and biological children. She also has a large audience and shares her Christian perspective on family and life in general in an often humorous and candid way.

I wasn’t surprised by her statements in a recent interview that have become controversial, prompting Lifeway Stores to pull her books off their shelves.

I am not going to respond to her views on homosexuality, politics, or even the Black Lives Matter Movement. There are plenty of other people who have written with more grace than I could and have articulated why many Christians disagree with her statements.

If Jen and I were to sit down and chat on these issues, I think we would both find ourselves at an impasse on where our views differ according to scripture. But Jen’s views are no different than many of my own personal friends, yet we manage to find friendship despite our differing Christian perspective on social issues.

What troubles me most about her interview and why I have not been a supporter of her platform, is something that God has had to teach and humble me about in using my voice as a follower of Christ. In the past, I could manage enough grace and mercy for those struggling with sin or who don’t identify themselves as followers of Christ. Scripture clearly commands me to love and have mercy for those who don’t know Christ. But grace and mercy for Christians- for the church- that’s was a little more difficult for me.

I could give you a list of grievances about Christians, the church, hypocrisy…. I am a daughter of a minister. Do I need to say more?

If I was to write a book, I could give the reader story after story how people who call themselves “Christians” have hurt other people, have been unforgiving, and the stories would pour out of my bitter heart of where the church has gone wrong in loving their neighbor. But God has tugged on my bitterness and revealed to me that although my grievances against the church and the Christian community are accurate assessments, they are also a form of my own self-righteousness which divides and does not unite or heal people towards the Christian community.

Jen Hatmaker responds, “I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church.” Yes, Jen, I get it. I have too!! But the church is made up of imperfect people trying desperately to follow a perfect God. Please show grace to the church (believers of Christ) as well as the homosexual community. We are all trying to navigate this world together but calling out Christians for their grievances against the gay community will only further direct the LGBT community away from Christ and the church.

I have come to realize that the Christian community and its impact on social issues is much larger than the four walls of one’s church building. I have written about abortion and questioning the church, as a whole, on where it stands in the pro-life movement. I still feel the body of Christ can do more in standing against the injustice of abortion but I strongly disagree with Jen’s statement on abortion in the Christian community. She responds, “There’s something incredibly disingenuous about a Christian community that screams about abortion, but then refuses to support the very programs that are going to stabilize vulnerable, economically fragile families that decide to keep their kids. Some Christians want the baby born, but then don’t want to help the mama raise that baby.”

I don’t understand how Jen Hatmaker- a Christian adoptive mother herself- does not pay tribute to the many, many Christian families who have opened their lives and homes to children and have been examples of the hands and feet of Christ. Does she not know of the numerous Christian organizations who raise funds each year to support pregnancy centers in their community to help the vulnerable and economically fragile? I know so many Christian brothers and sisters who have been the exact opposite of disingenuous when it comes to abortion. I ask Jen, as well as others, to look broader out into the Christian community and the numerous families supporting and raising adoptive children and the quiet but strong impact they are making against abortion.

There will always be injustice, pain, and rejection in the body of Christ. We are human. We are sinners but Christ calls us to draw closer to Him and his scriptures regardless of the hurt and bitterness. God is continually reminding me that I will never be a testimony of His righteousness to any community if I constantly call out the church for its grievances. It’s a lesson He seems to constantly teach me over and over again because I am an imperfect person worshiping God in an imperfect community of believers. By complaining, I am not honoring Him and I am not honoring the community of people I call my brothers and sisters in Christ. The foot of the cross is meant to draw and unite the sinner and the saint and none of us are worthy.

“It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” 1 Corinthians 1:30