I have this friend that I’ve been close to for more than 10 years. She is one of the most genuine and loving people that I know. Years ago she went to college in hopes to change the world and show the love of Jesus to others. Fast forward to now and she struggles to believe that God is real.
If we are the church and it’s our goal to share the gospel to people who are lost, perhaps we should start by reaching out to the people who have been most hurt by the church. At one time they knew the truth and instead of the truth setting them free the church created bondage, passed judgement, created rules that shouldn’t exist according to biblical standards, and by doing those things they questioned God and walked away. At church we’re often told to bring an unsaved person to service but yet we can’t have any unsaved friends because bad company corrupts good character. Now the person who has been shunned by people at the church no longer feel wanted or loved because their church friends can’t be friends with them because of their sin. I’ve been asking friends who’ve walked away from the church why it is they they’ve left. Their answers are honest and raw. I am hurt to the core that I’ve been part of a system that is failing these friends and former believers. Sure the church says they love at all times but these friends that left the church have not felt the love. I asked my friend Betty why she left and here is her edited reply.
I prayed for years not to struggle with over eating and I decided that either God wasn’t real or that he didn’t really hate gluttons. I have extensively read the bible so I had to choose the first one. If he was really a loving father he would have helped me out and delivered me from this sin that he and I both hate. The church sucked at helping. Jesus was a friend of sinners. Never once did he cast someone out or disown them or even make himself better than the rest of them….instead he washed their feet. I guess I don’t believe in church and what it stands for but I do believe in God.
When she was in height of her questioning and struggle she visited a church where a skinny pastor was preaching….
He referred to me as “one who looks lazy and unkept” because I was overweight. His stereotyped statement while preaching was the final nail in the coffin. I used to be someone who wanted to change the world for Jesus, and now I just want to show love. I’m still going to change the world but with a different message.
I confessed to Betty that I was coming up short in how to adequately express that gratitude that I have for her and her willingness to always be honest. She said that one of the only reasons that she still believes even a little is because of me and another friend who has stood by her even when her church “family” failed to remain her friend. I sat on my back porch with tears in my eyes getting the best sermon that I’ve heard in a long time from someone who left the church because of the condemnation from the pulpit. I asked her how I can be the one to make a difference and her reply forever changed me.
Be a friend, no matter what. Don’t force God and give all the verses that oppose people’s lives. Let each person hear from God on their own. Wash their feet, be you, and they will see him through that.