One thing that crops up constantly in churchwatchcentral’s mind games is the unnecessary level of unforgiveness present in their works.
Look, everyone is hurt or offended at some time or other in their Christian walk. Just as Jesus was betrayed by one close to Him, so we all will be let down or falsely accused or misused by someone in the Church. I hope you can avoid this, but it is almost inevitable.
Or, if we manage to get away with not being offended by a church-goer, we will be persecuted by non-Christians. Jesus told us that this was par for the course for all true believers.
And, of course, somewhere along the line we will wittingly or unwittingly upset or offend a fellow believer. Usually we are unaware of what exactly we have done to hurt a person, but there are occasions when our actions were out of order and in need of repentance and correction.
The Word of God allows for this. God never said that we would never ever again sin once we have been saved. John outlines this beautifully in his first pastoral letter. The wonderful thing about his teaching is that we can repent of our sin and God is righteous to forgive us. Glory to God.
The thing is, though, that we have to learn to forgive and be forgiven. These are essentials to the Christian life. We cannot live with unforgiveness. Indeed, Jesus told us that we would not be forgiven by God until we had forgiven others. Sela. Think about this for a moment.
Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Ouch! This immediately reminds us of the Lord’s Prayer which includes the line, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (Matthew 6:12).” Forgiveness is not an option, then, but a requirement if we are to also be forgiven by the Father.
Not always easy
Now, forgiveness is a great treasure handed to us by God. It is one of the great healing gifts presented to the Church by a forgiving Father. It is very empowering and ultimately liberating to be forgiven and to be able to forgive others.
Forgiveness is not always as simple as it should be. When we are offended we are tempted to hold onto the offence as a badge. It hurts. The human response is revenge, but only God is able to use it justly, so we’re caught in a dilemma.
That badge of pain can become baggage if we do not learn to quickly deal with the offence. We must not allow offence to dig in and take root in our lives and produce the fruit of bitterness.
Forgiveness is the gift from God that empowers us to let go of that deep-seated anger and find liberty that is based on love.
Bitterness as a weapon
The folk at discernment blogs like churchwatchcentral rely on unforgiveness as a tool they use to condemn others. They have been recycling sad stories that date back over 40 years in some instances. There are many tales of offence in every church. And most are genuine. We cannot deny this, nor sweep it under the carpet. Churches are not perfect places.
Assemblies are made up of imperfect people still on the road to perfection. None of us has made it yet, including the churchwatchcentral clan. “Let him who is without guilt cast the first stone,” Jesus said to a woman’s accusers, after she was caught in adultery.
They had a point, but their own guilt disqualified them from making a judgment or being fit to carry out the punishment, which was death by stoning. Where was the man she was with, by the way?
So when we set ourselves up in the seat of judgment we should take care in case we unwittingly usurp God’s rightful place as the only Just Judge. Remember, it was Lucifer who sought this elevated position and pride that encouraged him.
If we seek testimony that condemns ministries over and over and over, whether there was original just cause or not, we are declaring that we do not believe God’s Word regarding forgiveness, and we know better than Him. We are ignoring His call to release those who offend or hurt us so that we can, ourselves, live in the liberty of love.
We can forgive because God first forgave us. God sent His only begotten Son to save the world and bring God’s forgiveness for sin, so the only reasonable thing we can do is to forgive those who sin against us. Furthermore, withholding forgiveness is sin.
A higher standard
In a worldly sense some people never recover from offence, but Christians are held to much higher standard.
Sites akin to churchwatchcentral do not encourage this standard. In fact, they promote the notion that, once guilty of an offence, a Christian is thereafter to be held in contempt. They are ripe for continual judgment.
It’s important to add here that there are offences that are committed by Christians within the kingdom that need to be addressed and dealt with swiftly and comprehensively. There is a place for rebuke, disciplinary action and correction. This must come from recognised Eldership, and done decently and in order.
There is also a place for a level of recompense to those who are affected by an indiscretion. Whether we are Christians or not we have to take our punishment amongst the secular community if we are found guilty of civil disorder. We are not immune from the law if we break it.
Within Christian circles we are held to much higher level of accountability. We are under the perfect law of love, which can only be adhered to through our relationship with Christ, and by the leading of the Holy Spirit. We have this code of conduct written for us in the Word, and it carries reward for obedience and sanction for trespass..
The penalty for sin is death. The only way out is through repentance and forgiveness. God is righteous to forgive those who repent and genuinely confess their sins, taking full responsibility for their own actions. The caveat to this is that we have to discover, in Christ, how to forgive others before our own sins can be forgiven.
Oh the wonder of the Word of God and His just judgments.
Holding on to a grudge, for the believer, is a no-no. It interferes with our own repentance and God’s forgiveness of that sin. We are outlaws if we cannot forgive and walk away from the offence. By the way, forgiveness means letting go of all requirement for punitive action. We have to enter into the entire contract of love. No one said it was easy. But it is liberating. And essential.
When churchwatchcentral encourage people to publish their stories of offences they are, in a way, prolonging their agony. They are operating outside of God’s own guidelines for correction and redemption within the Church. Paul has said words to the effect that it is not right for believer to go against believer in the public court of judgment, but it should be dealt with within the teaching of the Church.
Churchwatchcentral, however, claim to be bringing release for people who have had bad experiences with churches, but are using their stories as material to lambast segments of the Church. They are compounding the problem, socially and Biblically. They are bringing disrepute upon the Church. There is a better way.
John Wesley did exactly the opposite. He would gather people into a small group and have them repent of their sins and seek forgiveness whilst forgiving others. He had them confess their sins to one another before God. Many people came to Christ this way. It produced such release in the people because forgiveness is a powerful tool in the hands of the justified.
We have to know how to let go of the desire for reprisal or retaliation. Prayer is a great healer. Pastoral care is a great healer. Going directly to Jesus is a great healer. Forgiveness is a great healer. It’s God’s way.
Release from discipline
Consider the Apostle Paul’s dealing with church at Corinth. In the first letter he admonished the church to discipline a sexually immoral man who had slept with his father’s wife, telling them to ostracise him until he repented (1 Corinthians 5). The man came under severe correction. Paul even admonished the church to pray to deliver his body up to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. This, so that at least his spirit could be saved.
The judgment is serious, and often quoted by polemicists as an example of the need of discipline, but it didn’t end there. In the second letter we have recorded, Paul brings forgiveness and recovery into the equation in a quite startling way.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 If anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.
Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
So, now, even though the issue at hand was so serious that Paul said that a little leaven could leaven the whole lump, or, in other words, one man’s sin can corrupt the whole assembly, he is now applying the salve after the man was shut out for a while, to now be readmitted as a fellow-saint. The power of forgiveness in action.
No place to the devil
Paul tells them that whatever they forgive he forgives. He is releasing the man, and therefore releasing the whole assembly. He adds to this by saying he had already forgiven the man in question in the presence of Christ.
He goes even further with something from which we must learn. It is imperative that we discover how to apply forgiveness at the right time so that we are not allowing Satan any advantage over us in any way. Satan is as a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. We are to give no place to the devil. Unforgiveness is a serious matter.
This is an important lesson for the polemicists and for those they use in their constant complaints against ministries. Life on earth is tough and there are many times when we are cruelly misused by others. The world thrives on these kinds of stories, but Christians have to rise above this in their assemblies.
This doesn’t mean we cannot warn others or ward off perpetrators, nor does it eliminate empathy with those who are misused. We are licensed to speak out. We have the permission, if we are actual witnesses, to bring our offence to the recognised Elders of the Church and ask them to bring justice into a situation.
Polemicist bloggers are not those Elders, however, and do not have the authority or license from God to judge in these matters, especially those who do so anonymously.
We are the Church. We have to live above the world. We cannot entangle ourselves with the world’s ways. We do not need to imitate the journalism of the unsaved secularists. We are better than the media. God has given su the correct pathway to freedom in Christ. All of us.
Forgiveness is a brilliant tool in the hands of those who’s seek to live a constant godly life, but it comes with a reservation; that we must first forgive others.