Everyone seems to have a 'legitimate' reason to avoid church. One of the most common complaints about church and favorite reasons for not going is, "I've been hurt be people there... and I don't need that in my life. The church should be a peaceful place of healing and kindness, not a place where people hurt you." This makes a lot of sense to the person who doesn't want to go to church. But it only makes sense if you don't think about it. Here are a few things to consider when using or hearing this excuse to not go to church...
Understand The Church - Arguably, one of the reasons the Church exists is as a place for people who have been hurt and who are hurting. It would be like not going to a hospital because there is so much sickness and disease there, or not going to a restaurant because there are so many hungry people there. "I don't go to restaurants because there are hungry people there. A restaurant should be a place where people are not hungry." Well... yes. And hungry people go to restaurants so they can be filled and changed from a hungry person to a nourished person. The Church is a place where hurt people, and people who hurt others go to be made well.
The Church Does Not Have A Monopoly On Hurt - And is there a place you can go where you will not run the chance of being hurt by others? I'm trying to think of a business, organization, institution, or cultural framework in which I have not been hurt or run the risk of being hurt. The government hurts people, but you still pay your taxes and go to get your driver's license. Teachers and other students hurt people, but you don't stop sending your kids to school, and you still go to college. Family members can and do hurt each other, but you don't run away from home, do you? And when you go into work tomorrow, I'm sure you will be sitting next to people who are hurtful at times. In other words, we don't write off and avoid every place where there is the potential for hurt.
Don't Be A Hypocrite - Are you judging yourself with the same standard you are judging church people? Are you suggesting that you've never hurt anyone? It has been said that, "Hurt people hurt people." We've all been hurt. We all have the ability to hurt others. Sometimes we hurt others by accident. I wonder how many people have stopped being a part of the Church because they were hurt by someone who didn't even try to of know they hurt the person. Sometimes people hurt others on purpose. I know this has turned some people against the Church. But is it fair to judge a whole organization based on one incident? Have you ever hurt anyone? Would you want others to judge your whole existence based on that situation? It is impossible to put that many people into a spiritual environment that is supposed to be at war with darkness and at the same time providing a safe place for enrichment and not have someone getting hurt.
The Church is a body. Paul expands on this metaphor...
For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ. For we were all baptized by[c]one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. So the body is not one part but many. If the foot should say, “Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,” in spite of this it still belongs to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body.
So the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” But even more, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are necessary. And those parts of the body that we think to be less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unpresentable parts have a better presentation. But our presentable parts have no need of clothing. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other. So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)
Sometimes some parts of the body hurt other parts. This happens in your own body, right? Sometimes your foot doesn't clear the corner of the base of the dresser. Do you cut your foot off? Do you avoid the bedroom because of the dresser? Or do you nurse the toe back to health and learn to walk more carefully?
Paul, who wrote that to a church that was full of hurtful and hurting people, was himself hurt by church people, many times... certainly more deeply than you've been hurt. But he didn't quit the church. Jesus was a great example in so many ways. He didn't just tell us we had to join an organization called the Church, He Himself was hurt repeatedly by the very ones He put over the Church, and one of His disciples even betrayed Him to be killed. And you get upset because someone looked at you a little sideways when you sat down in the pew?
Today go to church... even if your walk in late. Do not let a little (or a lot of) hurt you may experience keep you from the health that will undoubtedly come your way as the various parts of the body take care of you. There is no hurt in the church greater than the healing in the church.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.