Before I was saved, I knew a lot of “church people.” They dressed up pretty and went to church “religiously” every Sunday. I can’t tell you how they lived each moment of every day, but I remember they oozed with condemnation. I always felt they were completely unapproachable and extremely judgmental about anyone who didn’t talk, act, dress, or look like them. This club was exclusive and private.
Before I was saved, I cussed like a sailor. I dressed less than modest, and I certainly didn’t act like a Christian. I both felt judged and was judged. Now that I have been saved for 11 years, I realize how wrong this “church family” was. They were doing the exact opposite of what Jesus wants us to do. We are to reach out to the undesirables, the untouchables, the “sinners.” Just read any part of the Gospels, and this is what you see our Master doing. He is the Savior saving the ones who need saving. We all need saving.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
See those two words? “Everyone” and “all.” That means us, the church family, too.
This blog is all about raw truth, unfiltered. Anytime that Snow or I write anything, we bathe it in prayer first. We pour ourselves out as an offering, ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us up, and just write. We pray that what is written helps just one soul – just one.
Here comes the raw truth about church families. We are judgmental to the point where we hurt each other. We practically chase each other away (sometimes do). Can you imagine how the lost or the visitors in our churches feel?
Let me give you an example I am living currently. I have been a member for over ten years at the same church. A few thousand people attend each week. The church is becoming more diverse, which I love and pray for. Only very recently have I reached out to a few dear friends about the hurts in my marriage. I have endured many things in the past 11 years. I have been married almost 25 years, and I have never talked to anyone about any of it.
I thought I was being submissive just like the Bible says. There are many, many verses on wives being submissive to their husbands.
“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.”
Other verses on submission include: 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11, Ephesians 5:21-25, and Colossians 3:18.
I want to be clear that Ephesians 5:24 causes me a struggle when my husband is baptized and looks like “a good church family member,” yet is disobedient in most everything. (See my prior post, “Writing Jesus with a burdened heart.”)
Ephesians 5:24 says, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” Wow – everything? What if he is leading you and your children into disobedience? Clearly, the verse is using the model of Christ leading the church, and Christ is sinless, so the church should absolutely follow and submit fully to Christ.
Also, I am aware that no husband is sinless as Christ, so they are all going to make mistakes. But living a daily life of disobedience because that is what my “believer” husband is leading me and our kids to do? No, thank you! I will not disobey Jesus. He is my leader first.
Here is where the church family may want to take James 1:19 to heart, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
I confided in my best friend, who is church family. I had held the hurt in so long, I just needed to talk to someone I trusted. Sharing with someone that you are hurting and struggling in your marriage is not easy. Unfortunately, the judgment started immediately. I was swiftly quoted Malachi 2:16, “‘For I hate divorce!’ says the Lord.”
Here is where I am pleading with the global church family – please do not judge another’s hurts and wield Scripture without listening, without trying to understand the heart and motive of the other person. Or just pray with them first before offering your opinion. Listen for God’s guidance before quoting Scripture after two minutes of conversation and deciding the case to be closed.
Please do not misunderstand me, brothers and sisters, I use the Word for everything in my life.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
2 Timothy 3:16
“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”
1 John 4:1
I believe every single word of Scripture is God-breathed. I love the Word of God. All I am suggesting is that when fellow church family members come to you – please listen. Please pray with them. They may be in domestic violence situations or other abusive situations, and you quote Malachi 2:16 to them?
I know my friend was trying to be helpful. I know her response was intended to be loving and Word-based. I love her dearly for using the Word in her life daily. I refrained from going into any details that would potentially dishonor my husband. That is not what I feel led to do. Instead, I smiled at my friend and shared that I am aware of Malachi 2:16. I have studied it and prayed about it. I did not use the word “divorce,” and I may never, but instead I was seeking Godly counsel.
I shared that I know Jesus came to set us free, and He came so that we may have life and life abundant (John 10:10). I also shared that I have been praying about this for 11 years. I also feel Jesus saying, “I did not free you to remain in chains.” I do not believe that God intends for His children to remain in abusive relationships. Yes, I am aware of the various verses that talk about divorce, yet I hold the belief I hold.
Does that make me a church family member to be judged or shamed? Maybe. But, maybe also the church family made assumptions. Maybe they judged without the facts or without prayer. Maybe. Just maybe. We should first hold the person that reached out, pray with them. Listen. Fast with them. Offer to pray for them daily and right there on the spot.
The final suggestion to consider, fellow believers, is the possibility that if a spouse is struggling in marriage, there is something deeper going on. There is more to the story than you may realize. There is more to the story than you are being told. If you are in a happy marriage, do not project your life onto this person in need. On the other hand, if you are miserable in your marriage, if you have had Malachi 2:16 wielded against you in the past, do not continue this cycle. Do not fall prey to “misery loves company.” Break the cycle.
None of us are perfect. If we were, Jesus would not have had to die for us on the cross. We are, each of us, flawed. We are humans. It is not for us to judge the personal decisions of church family members, especially those reaching out to you for help. That is between Jesus and them.
Who are we to even think we have the ability to judge? Compared to an all-knowing, all-loving, compassionate God? We can’t possibly fill His shoes.
Pray with your church family. Listen to them. Be there for them. Hold them. But until your own life is completely free of sin, do not judge them. Do not shame them. Just love them.
“Those who trust in me will never be put to shame.”
from Isaiah 49:23
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