We are continuing our 30 Days of Gratitude! If you missed the scoop about why we’re celebrating, be sure to check out Episode One. Yesterday, we talked about how to be grateful even when people don’t apologize for the things they’ve done to offend you. Today, we’re going to be discussing Day Seven’s Topic: Church Folks!
LISTEN!!!! That one phrase can cause sooooo many emotions, right? Goodness gracious. Just hearing myself say those two words has me over here shaking my head. Dealing with people in general tends to be hard, but it just seems like church folks are a different breed of human beings. I think it’s because of what we expect from church folks. We expect them to be different from “regular folks”, but the fact of the matter is that people are people, no matter where you are or where you go. And honestly, just like church folks are “church folks” to you, you probably are or have been “church folks” to someone else, whether they were inside or outside of the church – sometimes without even realizing it. I know I’ve been “church folks” before… Bless my heart.
In my book, I quote a LONG passage of scripture (Luke 10:25-37 to be exact) that talks about the story of the Good Samaritan. Now if you don’t know the story, I’ll give you the tea right quick. So this lawyer asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus flipped the question back on him and said, “Well what is written in the law?” Jesus had comebacks for days. So the lawyer quotes the scripture and says that we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength and that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Jesus says, “Yeah, that’s right. Do that and you’ll live.” I’m paraphrasing, by the way. The lawyer tried to get a little justification for his little uppity actions by saying “And who is my neighbor?” So Jesus, true to form, tells a story. Normally, I get mad when I ask a simple question and someone tells me an entire story, but this is Jesus, so you know, you gotta kinda just listen. So here’s the story He told:
He said that a man was walking down the road and he got robbed. They stripped him and beat him, and then they left him half dead on the side of the road. So there was a priest going down the road and when he saw the man over there all beat up and stuff, he went to the other side and passed by. THE OTHER SIDE. A whole entire priest. Next came a Levite. Now a Levite is something like what we would call a “praise and worship leader” today. He saw the man, crossed the street, passed by the man… on the other side. Then, Jesus said, “BUT a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
Now you may have been taught that when you use the word “but”, it negates everything you said before that word. Jesus was intentional about this. And that’s gonna bring me to number one, but let me finish the story. So the Samaritan man helped the man who had been robbed. He cleaned him up, bound up his wounds, took him to an inn and paid for his stay. Then he said, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.” So Jesus asked, “Which one of these do you think proved to be a neighbor?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”
I really wanna break this down, but I have to give you these three things to be grateful for or we will be here ALL DAY!
Number one: Be grateful for the “but”. Church folks can hurt you. Church folks will hurt you. We expect church folks to treat us differently than the people on our jobs, out on the street, on the Metro, etc. – but the fact of the matter is that people are people, and church folks (ourselves included) tend to use the very thing that is supposed to convict us to try to justify our behavior just like this lawyer was trying to do in this story. But… For every single offense, hurt, pain and anything else that has ever been inflicted upon any of us by church folks, there is a “but”. They did that to you, BUT you overcame it. They lied on you, BUT God allowed the truth to be made known. They looked over you, BUT God had already made you the apple of His eye. They didn’t apologize, BUT you didn’t need their apology to move on. You mistreated them, BUT God gave you grace and showed you the error of your ways. You passed by someone in need on the way to church, BUT God didn’t allow your needs to go unmet. You allowed what they did to keep you from God, BUT God didn’t allow what you did to keep you from Him. “But” works all the way around. From every angle. In every situation.
Number two: Be grateful that God is not like man. People will fail us. They will. This story is a prime example of how the people we expect to be the ones who will cross the street to help us will be the ones who intentionally cross the street so that they won’t have to face us in our time of need. We see it all the time. However, if you read the story, Jesus didn’t magnify what the priest and the Levite did and didn’t do. He magnified what the Samaritan did. He magnified the good. He didn’t EXCLUDE the “bad”, because it was a necessary part of the story, but He didn’t magnify it. He magnified what should have been done. And although man will fail you from time to time, God will ALWAYS raise someone up to do what should have been done. That’s a tweet!
Number three: Be grateful that you don’t ever have to answer for them. Even though the priest was a whole entire priest, and the Levite was a whole entire praise and worship leader, Jesus didn’t answer for them. He didn’t say why they did what they did. He just illuminated what should have been done, who did what should have been done, and the fact that we should all do the same. So when you see someone who has been hurt by “church folks”, you don’t have to go and find a scripture to try to justify what they did. You don’t even have to make excuses for it. The only thing you have to do is illuminate what should have been done, BE THE ONE WHO DOES IT, and encourage others to be the same.
I’m gonna tell you a story. When I was thirty, I had what is called a “crisis of faith”. Because I had this crisis and couldn’t rectify how some of the stuff I was taught as a young person growing up in church made absolutely no sense in my world, I laid EVERY belief I had (except for my belief in God) on the table, and I studied and researched to see which of my beliefs I needed to keep and which ones I needed to get rid of. Now I’m not telling you to do this (or not to do it), I’m just telling you what happened to me. I didn’t go to church, I didn’t preach, I didn’t do anything. And do you know who deserted me? Do you know who talked about me, avoided me, marginalized me? Church folks. My “worldly friends” still loved me, checked on me, encouraged me to try church again (even though they didn’t go), told me that I had ministry in me, all of that. But my church friends? They’d make their facebook groups secret and then kick me out of them (not knowing that I would still get the notification). They’d delete me, unfollow me, tell people not to talk to me… It was HORRIBLE. But. See that word? BUT do you know what it did? It taught me how to “lean not to my own understanding”. It taught me how to focus on God and not on church folks. It taught me that if everyone in the world turned against me (which wasn’t the case, because I had some people in the church who still rocked with me, but if they hadn’t), God would still be right there. It gave meaning to my life. It showed me that my identity wasn’t in my standing with church folks. My identity was and is in God. It gave me the strength to live my life and walk out my purpose with or without support. It hurt, I was suicidal, I was depressed and lonely, BUT… That experience taught me lessons that I will use for the rest of my life.
I’m grateful for church folks. The amazing ones, the not-so-amazing ones, the ones who are still trying to figure it out – all of them. Believe it or not, they all play a role in your story, and you play a role in theirs. So when you experience hurt in the church, remember that though people represent God in the earth realm, they’re still people. Don’t let them walk all over you, but don’t let what the do cause you to think or feel differently about God. Before I walked away from the church, I said, “God, I’m not doing this. How do these people represent you and pray to you and worship you all the time but treat me like this? How do you let them do this to me?” I’ll never forget what God told me. God said, “You may see something as the worst thing that has ever happened to you, but in My eyes, it’s still good. You don’t see the good in it, because you haven’t seen it work for you yet. Nothing can work in your life unless it works for your good.” That’s why King David said, “It is GOOD for me that I have been afflicted.” (Psalm 119:71) That’s why after Joseph’s brothers did everything they could to ruin him, he said, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20) That’s why Jesus had to learn obedience THROUGH the things He SUFFERED. His suffering taught Him how to walk out His life on earth.
It hurts. It’s bad. It’s sad. It’s terrible that the world often shows you more love than the church. BUT… Church folks and their behavior will never change who God is. Don’t let church folks change who you are. And don’t be one of them, either. Don’t do damage to people and cover it up with a scripture. Don’t mistreat people and think it’s okay. Don’t be a bully because “that’s how you came up in the old church”. Do better. Be better.
And on that note, I’m out. Have an AMAZING day and be GREAT! I speak life over you and everyone and everything connected to you! Catch me tomorrow!