I’ve watched people get kicked out of church. I’ve heard of police involvement, restraining orders and men posted at the entrances to keep certain people out. I’ve watched the work of these people get dismantled and removed. It doesn’t even feel safe to mention their name. It’s as though they never existed.
Do you ever wonder what happened to these people?
Too many don’t and they don’t care.
There are so many questions. You hear of their sin and see the Gestapo-like response and then…nothing. People don’t have time to connect with the person before they’re kicked out. By the time they’re gone, the questions are mounting and the possible answers are scary. You wonder how long they’ve been lying, how they were able to be so convincing at church and then you get disgusted with such hypocrisy. The assumption is that what you hear must pale in comparison to what you don’t hear. And you don’t want to hear. That’s where anger is born. Bitter resentment at the audacity of irreverence and disrespect.
The anger boils and rises and begins to cloud everything. You’re hurt, disappointed and the thought of them carrying out their sin is so offensive it makes your stomach turn. And it all makes you more angry. The roller coaster of emotions is enough take over and you decide it’s time to do something. You have to let it go.
Here’s what you do: you take the visual you have of the person, the last thing you have in your heads, and you abort their life. Then you focus on the things that make it easier to mourn them. You visit the morgue in your minds with the mangled body under the sheets. You don’t want to see them, not like that, so you focus on who they were. So much potential. Such a promising life. Great voice…great leader. A shame.
If you have to kill someone in your mind in order to move on, then you’re not doing it right.
That’s why you don’t know what to do when you see them in public. It’s like seeing a ghost.
Do you want to know what happened to these people?
I can’t speak for all of them, but I can speak for those who are like me. I was one of them. And there are a lot of us.
When a person’s sin sends an earthquake rippling through their life, it’s always a shock. Sin is selfish. By the very nature, they’re not thinking about how their choices will affect others. So, when they watch the earthquake rip through their lives, they’re in no condition to be able to stand watching what it’s done to yours and the others. It makes them feel helpless against the torrent and the blood on their hands makes them scream in fear. It’s not just their blood, it’s everyone else’s too.
This is a foreign situation for them. You can’t expect someone to behave ‘normal’ when they’re in a situation that is not normal. Erratic behavior should be expected.
When you’re going through your pain, you can lean on God, innocence and each other. They can’t lean on innocence, they’ve lost everyone and they can’t even go to the main place where they used to connect with God. They are lost, alone and terrified. They don’t reach out to you because they’re afraid. They don’t reach out to God because they’re ashamed and the people who have always represented God to them have kicked them out. In essence, they’ve been kicked out in the name of God. Turning to Him takes more faith than they’ve ever had to use in their lives.
The healing process is long, painful and lonely. The only voice of reason is a still small voice in their spirit. They’re undergoing intense training and spiritual therapy by a Presence more real to them now than He ever was before. There are many stages where they are full of hope one minute and full of sorrow the next. A happy trip to the grocery store with the family can end in tears when an old church friend physically bumps them and keeps walking without saying a word.
The graceless behavior of other Christians can send them falling backward for days. It’s throwing rocks at a gaping wound that’s still bleeding.
The sobs are eventually hushed by an overwhelming Presence of tenderness and love. It’s the feeling of being sang to. Like a child. The Presence of grace becomes stronger in those moments, as if to say, ‘What they’re doing is not me. What you feel now, that’s me.’ He teaches them the difference so, one day, you can’t hurt them anymore. You have left His agenda when you stand against His fallen.
You have to leave the door open.
The wounded need medicine. One of the most wounded is the one who set the fire. They were closest to it when it erupted. When you’re tending to the blistered bystanders, you have to send your best doctors to the one you ‘can’t recognize anymore.’ They don’t believe they can make it, they see their damage and they don’t see the light. You have to show them the light. Not in a way that pounds in their stupid mistakes. The light you carry is like flashlight in the dark, you can only illuminate one thing with your presence. Their sin or His grace. You don’t tell a person how sick they are while you’re trying to tell them they can survive their sickness. What do you want your life pointing to?
Anger is normal. But, if you walk away from someone who fell you’re killing them. If they can’t go to their church, where are they supposed to go? You’re their family. Whether they die or not is not the point, because you left them for dead. If they can’t start fresh with you, then what does that say about you?
You can’t let sin govern your response. That would be responding to sin, not Jesus. You’ve been through enough training to be able to recite the Truth. Let everything Jesus came to accomplish be put on display when the situation is real. The real world is your exam room, real situations are your tests. You show what you know when the situation gets real.
If you’ve messed this up with someone, then I challenge you to make it right. I promise, they’re waiting.