There have been many articles and videos done on this. Many are from a sociological and psychological perspective. This article will attempt to view this from a more biblical-weighted perspective.
What is Church Hurt?
Everyone has their own idea as to what Church Hurt means. This may be the simplest explanation of the term. Church Hurt is when someone is wounded emotionally by something Christians do to them or say about them.
- Scenario 1 – James commits a transgression and confesses it to Paul. Paul tells Peter and from Peter the entire Congregation soon hears of it. That's bad enough. Instead of covering James with love, compassion, understanding, and praying for his restoration, they mistreat him by criticizing and ostracizing him. They cut him with their eyes, whisper around him and gossip about him, cut ties with him and treat him like an outsider.
- Scenario 2 – Mary tells Martha that James committed a transgression. Instead of talking to James about it, Martha spreads what is only a rumor at this point and the entire Congregation hears of it. Continue with Scenario 1 above.
- Scenario 3 – A leader takes advantage of their position and compromises James. Instead of confessing and stopping, the leader goes on like nothing happens. They may even continue as long as it's allowed or unexposed. Once it is exposed, James is left feeling shamed. What can make matters worse, the leader is embraced by the Congregation, while James is treated like the wrong doer and an outcast.
These scenarios are just a sample and are not necessarily all inclusive. They play out in different variations. The end can have the same result. James is hurt and wounded that those he thought was supposed to love and care about him would treat him this way.
James then chooses to either stay put and ride out the storm or go somewhere else to fellowship. No matter what the transgression, true or alleged, the actions taken by others is hurtful and can cause emotional, mental, and social harm.
Blaming the Wounded for Being Hurt
Before moving forward, there is one more dynamic in play these days. It's often not enough that a person has been wounded. The pain is often compounded with conversations and messages from the pulpit that communicates to the wounded, they need to get over it. They need to ‘suck it up', get past it and move on.
This may not be as easy as one may think. And those saying these things are not looking at the situation from the wounded person's perspective. Such thoughts and talk can also be considered uncaring, unloving, inconsiderate, and thoughtless. Is what happened their fault? Even if it is their fault, wouldn't you feel bad if people talked about and treated you harshly?
Let it be understood. There is a point when any transgression that is confessed and repented of should be left behind.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
The problem comes in when other Christians will not let it go. They continue to treat the person as it they are living in a state of perpetual sin. So the ill treatment becomes a constant reminder. Under such conditions, it should be no wonder James in our scenarios decided to fellowship elsewhere.
And probably the worst is when all trust is damaged. There are Christians who do not fellowship with an established group at all because of this. They too are wrongfully treated like lepers and non-Christians.
“The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” Proverbs 18:14
Gossip and Slander – It is what it is, SIN!
When we talk about another person, often using unconfirmed facts, this is gossip, pure and simple. If the facts are true, it's still considered gossip. It can also be considered slander if the statements are proven false and/or can be damaging to a person reputation.
Because God understands how harmful gossip and slander can be, scripture is filled with warnings and admonitions to avoid this practice.
“Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” 1 Timothy 3:11
While the verse above mentions wives in context, it applies to all who call themselves Christians.
“For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:” 2 Corinthians 12:20
Backbiting and whisperings is gossiping and slandering. Conversation that harms another is not innocent. If you believe yourself to be a Christian, yet you open your mouth against your fellow brothers and sisters, consider the words of Paul…
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.” James 1:26
What does James say about it?
“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.” James 4:11
And what is the law?
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
Love fulfills the law. No matter what the issue, a true and faithful friend loves. That is what every Christian is called to be to one another.
“He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Proverbs 17:9
Even the Children of Israel were told to be careful about what they say concerning others.
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” Exodus 23:1
What does the Word say to do about Gossips and Slanderers?
It's not enough to be mindful of our words. We are told what to do about those who talks about others…
“He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” Proverbs 20:19
In this context, the word ‘flatter' is to persuade, embellish, or entice. Avoid such conversations and if they insist on continuing such talk, they are to be avoided all together. What makes this important to consider?
“He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool.” Proverbs 10:18
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Romans 1:29-32
“A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” Proverbs 11:13
Safety and Love is the Order of the Day
“A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.” Proverbs 12:23
Everyone desires a place where they feel safe. We have window and door locks and security systems that prove this. The same applies to relationships. We desire safe relationships.
If a relationship endangers our state, be it emotional, physical, social, or mental, we often seek escape. We seek other relationships hoping they will be safe. If not, the journey continues. Sometimes people feel safest in their own company.
This is contrary to God's will. He meant for us to be a social beings when He said It is not good for man to be alone. Thus, we thrive as social creatures. When that is harmed, we tend to wall off. And this could cause irreparable harm only God can repair.
When trust is betrayed, this can wound like nothing else. So we need to safeguard our relationships from breaches. We need to protect one another from dangers within and without. As God's Children, we are to be family. And if we hope to live forever with God, we must figure it out and get it right NOW!
“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” 1 John 3:7, 10
What are we to do now?
If you know you are guilty of causing or participating in ‘Church Hurt', repent. And embrace those you've harmed, if you can. This is why we are told to make things right with our brother while we can. To delay could cost their soul… and yours!
Cease with messages and conversations condemning those who have been hurt. And stop protecting those who harm others! If they are not righteous enough to confess, expose them to righteous leadership who will take the biblical steps to deliver them.
If they refuse to do right, we are told to treat them as a sinner. How do we treat sinners? We certainly don't allow them to continue as leaders. And we don’t treat them as criminals to be shunned and cast out, but as those needing deliverance, as well all once were.
“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:15-20
Christians, or those who call themselves so, often have a reputation of shooting their wounded. This needs to end and will end when we love as God's Word says.
And those who have experienced hurt by fellow Christians, pray for them that they realize the error and repent and release them for your sake. And if possible and you have knowledge of it, let them know their offense. Some people, while they should, really don't think they have wronged others in this manner.
WWJD? He would do what the Father says, which is to love.
“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8