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Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Faith That is Part of a Real World


My last blog was on divorce in relation to abusive relationships, and a Christian response to such situations.  I was actually rather surprised at the reception, because it was one of my most read blogs in several months.  The sad part is, because I think all of us know abusive relationships are more common than many in the churches would like to admit…except that while it isn’t addressed often, church folks know it SHOULD be addressed.  Because we know it happens, and it happens too often, and it even happens in homes of people who regularly attend church  It’s just that all too often the church does not know how to deal with it effectively, and instead it often gets ignored in the church and left to the social workers, courts and psychologists.   

It is one topic that the church is all too often sadly silent about when the church has clear scriptural teaching that contradicts any acceptance of abusive behavior.  Why is the church so silent in these things?

Some have pointed out how poorly the Catholic Church handled the molestation of young boys by some clergy members.  And they should be criticized for that.  But they are not alone.  Abusive relationships are far too common in many areas of society, including within too many churches.  I have been particularly bothered, myself, by those who turn to Ephesians 5 to claim the husband is head of the home and then use that as justification for controlling and abusive behaviors.  Headship and submission in that chapter, so often quoted and misused is only to be understood through the example of Jesus, as is clearly indicated in the passage.  Christ as head of the church lays down his life for the church, and chose to serve instead of being served, and that is a far cry from the kind of headship that would seek to control and abuse those of whom a husband would seek to be the head.  And the verse about a wife submitting is twisted into something that was never intended, because it is often quoted with no reference to the fact that earlier in the chapter the call is for husband and wife to submit to one another, and to Christ.  It is this mutuality of respect, service and support that Ephesians speaks of, not the domineering of a misguided husband or the browbeating of an angry wife. 

I should probably not have been surprised at how many people were interested in that blog.  Because I think people are hungry for a faith that deals with the real world, rather than sweeping the tough issues under a rug, turning a blind eye to the real struggles of people in the congregation and in the world while making declarations of wrongdoing by those outside the church.  My recollection is that Jesus challenged us to deal with the logs in our own eyes before we even THINK about dealing with the specks in the eyes of others.  How much more refreshing it is, it seems to me, to be part of a fellowship where people acknowledge their struggles and imperfections, supporting one another as we seek to become more like Christ and disentangle from ourselves from the sins that stain our lives an leave us shattered and broken.  How can a doctor help heal a person who refuses to acknowledge they are sick and seek the doctor’s help?  How can we experience the healing of the Great Physician when we turn a blind eye to the life areas that need to change while pretending to be dependent upon God’s mercy and grace? 

The Christianity that most impresses me is the version I have been blessed to see in the lives of certain believers here and there through the course of my life.  Those people have represented to me and to others they meet the kind of faith that encounters individuals whose lives have been damaged by sin or hardship, and in the encounter chooses to walk alongside those people with humility and compassion, rather than sit in judgment with attitudes of rejection and “holier than thou.”  I especially see this distinction played out in the way various Christians and churches choose to deal with the reality that there are people in their congregations experience the brokenness of divorce.  I have been so blessed to have brothers and sisters who met me at my point of brokenness when I experienced divorce, and gave me the hope, acceptance and encouragement I needed for healing that pain.  

I hope your experience of the Christian faith includes those kind of people.  And I also hope that those who encounter you in life experience that kind of faith in you. 

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