For the last couple of years, there have been some very difficult and painful issues going on within my church family. People have been hurt and left the church. People have been desperately wounded, yet remained in the church. Yet, in spite of the unrest and struggle, God’s Spirit has been very active. People have been saved, ministry has grown, and disciples are growing in their faith. Requests for forgiveness have been made by key leaders but the mistrust and questioning of motives does not seem to be dissipating. Many in our family graciously extended forgiveness. But some of our families have charged the leadership with “manipulation” of the church membership. They have determined what is “right” and, despite a request for forgiveness, these few appear unwilling to extend mercy and pursue restoration. How can this be?
This focus on “being right” by these individuals, the lack of grace coupled with divisive behavior has left me broken-hearted. For myself, my willingness to be vulnerable about my brokenness has been tempered with a healthy fear that I might be the recipient of similar judgment and negativity. As a leader, as one who has invested over thirteen years of my life into this church family, I have spent hours in prayer with our Father searching for wisdom and how we can apply His truth to this situation. And, after much prayer, Scripture searching, and soul searching, it has come down to one question: do we choose “right” or do we choose love?
As we look to our Holy God to show us which to choose we may be in for a surprise! Our perfect, holy God made decisions on behalf of His people that show us that love will always triumph over “right”. The truth is that we are sinful, broken people. And if God did only what was “right”, we would be relegated to hell, period. But God, “being gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Ps. 103:8), chose love over “right”. For in the garden of Gethsemane, God in His Human form as Jesus Christ asked that the cup of the Father’s wrath not be poured out on Him. And Jesus, because He had never sinned, had the “right” to ask God to allow the cup to pass over Him! But the Father decided that love was more important that being “right” and allowed Jesus to go to the cross for you and for me. He could have chosen “right” but He chose love. He chose love.
So to answer the question, we must choose love! “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13) is our guide. Choosing love means that we must get on our knees, beg the Holy Spirit to give us strength and then follow through with the appropriate action. For some, the action may be to love from a new church home. I hope not; I don’t want to lose any more family members. But if we choose to remain in the church, then we must “love… with action and in truth” (1 John 3:18), and the disruptive behavior must end. We must extend forgiveness, be willing to restore relationship and move on. If we do not do this, then we become part of the sin problem. We become an instrument used by Satan to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) the family of God in Christ’s church; not my church, not your church, but Christ’s church. No one desires to be used of Satan, but unfortunately, if we are not part of the solution, we are a part of the problem; part of the sin. Bottom line: we all have a choice to make. I have made my choice. I choose love.