Posted by: Ted Mattis | 22/06/2010

Well….I guess it has been awhile!

Yes. I know. It has been a while. There are seasons in life in which you just have to go deep, withdraw and find a new way. The past year,needless to say for me, has been a difficult one. The unrelenting pressure of opposition, my subsequent termination, the spiritual malaise and its consequential relational degradation have all combined into a unified voice and a hard, but gracious teacher. The world is not safe. Jesus is. The exercise of true love is only truly experienced when it is extended to those who have most wounded you. Maybe it is your spouse, a parent, a child, a friend, or an employer. Jesus was very clear when He asked His disciples,

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.

When you have been hurt deeply by someone you trusted, the hardest thing to comprehend is ever getting through it. How do you heal when the very thing, or one, you counted on for your life is the one who plunged the proverbial “knife” into your back? How do you find confidence in friendship when friendship has abandoned you on the shores of self justification? I realize that these are big questions that all have a context for me, but the questions remain. The answers lie only in the experience. Just as an outsider cannot understand truly the plight of the alcoholic and their recovery, or the trial of a pastor’s wife, nor can one truly comprehend what Jesus means when He says, “love your enemies” until they have felt the cruel lashing of their enemy. Just who can be included among our enemies?

Up until that point, for most of us, our enemies are only hypothetical- they are intellectualisms and intellectualisms rarely bare characterological fruit. Loving your enemies means first getting real and owning the experience of our enemy’s opposition and woundings (we must be aware also of our internal enemy – sin– and our external ones), secondly, identifying the true face of our enemy or enemies, and thirdly, absorbing the cost of the wounding (letting go of your right to vengeance). It is profound to me that Jesus had two enemies in His life: THE Enemy (Satan) and…..wait for it…… the church. The Enemy is obvious to us. And while our own self-centeredeness is often our cruelest enemy, not often enough do we dare to identify the church as such. By ‘the church’ I mean the institution rather than the living organism, what Paul called ‘the bride.’ Yet, our world is so full of men, women, boys and girls who have turned away from God Himself because of the church. They are convinced that ‘the church’ is more concerned with ‘her image’ and could not care or less about the shamed, the broken and the needy. And if the church doesn’t, that must mean that God doesn’t either in their minds. They have felt the lashing of the enemy. There are men and women who have suffered divorce in their lives, and yes, sometimes from their own hands, but regardless look to the bride for healing and help but find themselves put out as undesirable by ‘the church.’ They have felt the lashing of the enemy too. And then, there are those that are different because they have not been seduced by the lies of their culture, refusing to accept ‘the church’ as she is in all all of her prostituted shame, thinking more of the bride, these brave souls dare to challenge the prevailing and accepted rules or norms of their religious traditional culture (just like Jesus), regardless if it is wrapped in religious speak. They have felt the lashing of the enemy as well. See, the bride of Christ, the beautiful bride and ‘the church’ as we know it this side of glory are often not synonymous entities. I have learned that it is very possible to love the bride but not ‘the church,’ just like it is very possible to love the addict but hate the addiction.

The good news is…. “the church” is not our salvation, nor will it ever be. It is an institution, an organization. And yes, her mission is carrying the message that IS salvation. It is an agent employed by Jesus Himself, our only salvation, to bring healing to the broken and hurting, to the cast out and so on. Jesus is our salvation- our living water. But when the church ceases to accept and welcome the different, the broken, the ugly, the unacceptable in lieu of protecting their tradition and their culture, what then? Are we still too assume that they are agents of hope? No. I believe Jesus said quite clearly, ‘if you are not for me, then you are against me.’ ‘The church’ ceases being an agent of God when it abandons His purposes for her in lieu of protecting its own interests and thereby, however not intentionally, becoming an instrument of the enemy. That’s what was happening in Jesus’ day. The leaders of the church were more concerned with protecting their heritage than their message. They had become dead. Jesus calls them children of lies from the father of lies, white-washed tombs, etc… Sure, there are true members of the bride in every church and in every board of church leadership, but there are just as many ‘churchmen’ who only share an institutional affiliation but are far away from the family of God. It’s cruel but what we need more than anything today is for God not to redeem the world, politics, Washington and so on, but to redeem ‘the church,’ to restore her beautiful but grossly marred face.

The gift of Jesus is not simply new eyes to see our waywardness or the gift of personal forgiveness (hallelujah!), but having received it, we are then, with His supernatural power within us, to go beyond being receivers and offer it to those who have wounded us- the ones we least want to. That is the true test of the Christian life.

Remember, You have to know the enemy’s opposition and wounding, identify our enemy, and absorb (forgiving) the cost.

Love can never really happen without first passing through the difficult waters of another’s woundings and then, by God’s amazing grace, forgiveness… Until we see that as exactly the path that Jesus took we can never truly know love beyond emotional intellectualism. The ability to forgive only comes when you first experience it yourself having been the enemy of the very God who endured your scorn and shame (our opposition), that we (the church) hung Him on a tree to pay for our refusal to surrender, but God, who saw us rightly as children of the devil and yet, gave Himself willingly, absorbing the cost that we might become children of God- o my!

You can’t and don’t love unless you have first moved through the ugly pain of another’s woundings and forgiven. It’s that way for marriage. It’s that way for friendships. It’s just that way.

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