I got a text recently that sank my heart. It was from someone I’ve mentored for years and it went something like this:
Kristin, I…..(she proceeded to confess a major sin to me).
It wasn’t her sin that disappointed me. It was the church. Sure, I read the text thinking: I wish you wouldn’t have done that. Mainly because I know her sin. I've lived it. These two hands just can’t throw a stone because, well…I get it. I know the shame that comes with it and I know the gut wrenching healing process too. I didn’t want that for her.
But here’s the thing: not only was she disappointed in herself, she was questioning her identity and if God could continue to use her. She didn’t want to be looked at differently by the ones she loves so much- her church family. Ugh…just ugh.
There’s a bigger picture here. We ALL mess up. We ALL sin. We ALL need to know what to do with that, but none of us are really talking about it. Now before you read any further, I want you to know I’ve been in Pastoral ministry for the last several years. I love the local church and am devoted to its mission. So, these are the questions I toss around in my head:
Where do we go when we mess up?
Who do we turn to when we want to break free of our bad decisions and find our way back to Jesus?
Is there a place where it’s safe to be seen?
Why do people come to church and still feel unloved?
It got me thinking so hard. I went to bed that night with tears streaming down my face because we tend to address how people behave and neglect the beliefs that are causing them to act that way. It made me want to gather every pastor, church leader and Christ follower I know and ask them: Hey, do we really know what to do with sin?
- People think they have to clean themselves up to come to church.
- Church members are terrified to share their sin with each other in fear of what others may think. I mean let’s face it, some of our sins are pretty heavy.
- Church leaders often talk about sin in past tense like it’s so far removed.
- The art of transparency is extremely filtered these days.
My heart longs for people to come to church and experience love. True. Genuine. Love. The kind that says: I see you in your darkest moment and I still love you. Because the church should be the safest place to be messy. If we are going to lead like Jesus led, we have to be ok with getting dirty. Remember the woman who was caught in the act of adultery? The religious leaders brought her to Jesus to expose her sin and fling accusations. They were poised with stones in their hands, ready to pelt her to death.
John 8:6-11 (HCSB)
Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. 7 When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.”
8 Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, Lord,” she answered.
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
She was uncondemned. In other words, he refused to label her. Side-note: I’m so grateful for this. Jesus came to free us from our sins, including being defined by them.
That’s what love does. It looks people in the eye and says:
I will help you without judging you.
I will pick you up off the floor and remind you of who you are.
I will pray for you.
I will speak truth to you.
I will see your heart and not your sin.
I will not try to have all the answers.
I will take you to Jesus.
I will not let you go until I’m certain you’ve heard from him.
I will watch as He takes your mistakes and uses them to show you His power.
I will celebrate your courage.
I will do all of these things because I am the church and church isn’t a place we go it’s who we are.