Friday, March 9, 2012

The walking wounded

"The Church is the only army where we shoot the wounded when they have fallen."

Wow! I read that sentence the other day on another blog and it really struck a chord in my heart. Sadly, in some cases, it is true. Obviously not always: There are countless Christians filled with the Spirit and overflowing with His love and grace. But it did stop to make me think.

This theme has been coming up a lot for me lately. I see it in Costa Rica. People who fall in and out of addiction constantly. People who mess up. They appear to have their lives under control for a few weeks and then the pain of life slips in and they slip back into their old habits and addictions.  I see it in the United States, too. People want to go to church, but many times they get the impression that they need to clean up and shape up before they can come into the church community. They feel they need to DO something, but be cleaned up and free of their past BEFORE they can come to church. As both types of people come into the church community, there can often be a negative reaction by the people on the inside. It's seen in the: "oh, you should really take care of that before you come here", "when was the last time you showered?", "Why don't you just go get a job?", "Stop sleeping around, then you can come here", "clean up your life, stop doing drugs, stop smoking, stop drinking, find a nicer shirt, then come on in."

What is our responsibility? When they confess their sins, their short comings, their temptations and trigger points, what do we do with them? Or to take it even further, what should our response be when they fall back into those sins AGAIN? When they have admitted what is really going on in their lives do we continue to point the finger and deepen their pain? Sometimes in our zeal to wipe out sin, we brutally "kill" the sinner. People end up running away from the church, discouraged and feeling abandoned, and we come come the hypocrites the world already thinks we are. Consider the following story I found online:

Picture a fallen soldier during wartime. He made a mistake and entered a place he wasn't supposed to and ended up gunned down by a stealth enemy. His comrades find him laying in a pool of blood.

"Go on. Shoot him! He didn't follow directions. He deserves to die," the commander orders.
"But, Sir? -- " A confused soldier questions. "He's one of us, one of our own."

"Not anymore, Soldier. Look at him. Laying there in the mess of his mistake. Stop stalling. Shoot him!"

Sound ridiculous? It should. God commands us to love. To love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31). To our brothers and sisters in Christ. And even to love our enemies!! So why in the world would we continue to harm the hurting?

When new believers first come to church and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, we have to realize that most likely they are going to start off as a mess. Especially if they have been living in Satan's grasp and under his control for years. The first few years in the church, people may stumbled and fall ... a lot. It's a totally new way of life. A totally new culture. A totally new language. And it takes time to learn it. Why else would Paul and the other new testament writers have to write so many letters to so many churches...and some times write second or even third letters??? 

And it's no different for people who have been believers for extended periods of time, either! We live in a fallen world. We all have things we struggle with, triggers, temptations, and trials to go through. Some times we screw up and drop the ball. Does that mean we should be soft on sin? Absolutely NOT!! The job of our church community should be to clearly define the consequences of sin, help  refocus, repent, and move on from mistakes, yet love unconditionally throughout in the process. When helping people realize and repent from their sin, we should never put them on the defensive or make them feel like they are under attack. After all, if it's God's loving kindness that leads us to repentance, what should be be using (Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 2:4)? As we love through this process, sinning should became harder as our love for the Lord increases. Eventually, God can move fallen soldiers to the front lines as one of His precious, and victorious, warriors.

Here's the point: we all sin. We all fall short (Romans 3:23). Can you imagine the impact we'd have on the world if we loved and encouraged more? We are not only an army, but a spiritual hospital. Just like the army offers medical care for fallen soldiers, so should we. What a waste when we harm our own. We tarnish the treasured positions Christ has placed us in. We start to look just like the world.  

We should not look like vultures waiting for our wounded to die so we can devour them, we should be the first to love them back to health. I know in my life it seems like every time I judge someone, I end up facing that same situation I was so quick to judge. That very temptation comes knocking at my own door, and honesty there have been times when I have failed tests, trials, and temptations, too. Thank God I have a safe place to regain my dignity and hope, surrounded by other prayer warriors who help me get back in the battle; on the right side. 

I wonder how many fellow warriors have defected over enemy lines simply because of the harsh treatment dished out by their supposed comrades, the "Body of Christ". Instead of raising our weapons against each other, let's bind up their wounds with love and forgiveness. Let's lead them in truth, not beat them over the head with it. Let's turn the weapon of our tongue on our true enemy, the devil and his army, and see victory for the Kingdom of God.

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