As I travel and minister at various Christian churches, I regularly teach about the necessity of unity in the Church. Of course, part of that unity is an attitude of forgiveness toward one another. Often, after such meetings, someone will approach me and ask to talk. Invariably these conversations lead to a horrendous story of things that have happened to them. What the person is generally looking for is my approval for them to be an exception to the principles I have just taught. As recipients of such unloving behavior, they believe they should be exempt from forgiving and loving the perpetrators.
The reality is that if I shared all the true scenarios I have encountered of shameful treatment toward one another in churches, you would be shocked and appalled. I remember years ago sitting in a hotel room with a ministry colleague discussing the situation we had just encountered in the church where we were ministering. He looked at me and asked, “Do you think we should write a book about the things we’ve seen?”
“No,” I responded, “no one would ever believe it.”
Perhaps you’ve been hurt or wronged by someone else in the Church. Maybe you’ve survived some less-than-positive treatment from the Body of Christ. If this describes you then you absolutely must understand that these things do not give you the right to lash out, retaliate, or even to hold a grudge. Someone else acting unscripturally does not give you the right to act unscripturally.
Our retaliatory attitudes are in stark contrast to the words and actions of Jesus. He clearly told us that if someone slaps us on one cheek, we should let him slap the other one also (Matthew 5:39). Jesus went on to say, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). When He was being nailed to a cross, He prayed for the forgiveness of His tormentors.
Oh, that we could demonstrate such amazing love and forgiveness!