Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up in church.

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand all of the unwritten and unspoken rules that people who grow up in church just “get” and I don’t get it.

Like believing that Christians I should actually live what my bible says.

Things like “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'”

And “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And “Do you not know, Dear Christian, that you are a temple of the living God and that His Holy Spirit dwells in you?”

A few years ago, a (former) church friend and I were meeting for bible study and in the process, I told her about the ostracism that I was experiencing – and had been experiencing for nearly ten years.  I explained that I had repeatedly tried to communicate with the senior pastor – going to my brother and showing him his fault – regarding what his staff and leaders had decreed regarding my banishment from serving and participating in ministry.

“Why have you stayed?” she asked.

“Because I believe that I should be like Jesus,” I replied.  “He never leaves or forsakes us, so how can I leave or forsake the church that He has called me to?”

Another day, she asked, “Why do you think God has abandoned you?”

“Because these are Christians – temples of God, Spirit indwelt.  If they are saying that I am unworthy, and not even worthy enough to carry out the Matthew 18 process with me, it’s not a big stretch to believe that the God who dwells within them believes the same thing.  I have explained this to the senior pastor with no response, so I consider that tacit agreement.  He and the other staff and leaders obviously must agree.”

I so wanted to ‘never leave or forsake’ this Christian community that I so fervently believed God had called me into – the sermons on grace, forgiveness, the healing power of the Holy Spirit.  Hearing such hope from the pulpit convinced me that, if I were to figure out how to measure up, I would receive these blessings.  Just stick with it, Ellen.  Just hang on.  Someday, everything will work together for good because you all love Jesus.

I was at least allowed to sit in church.  They hadn’t abandoned me completely.  I so feared that they would “leave” me – toss me out entirely.  It was enough to be like the dog at the Master’s table – snatching at the scraps that were inadvertently dropped to the floor, sometimes being kicked into the corner if I tried to get too close.

So, when the day came that my fears were realized – that I was tossed aside – I discovered the truth.  “They had never been with me.”  

If they had been with me, my relationship with them would never have been conditional.  I would never have been denied the Matthew 18 process.  I would never have been treated as unwanted or unworthy.

When they tossed me out of their church and out of their lives, what was I going to miss?  Would I miss being treated as a leper?  Would I miss being judged and ostracized?  Would I miss the pastor’s refusal to respond to my questions, my pleading for answers and for scriptural processes?  Would I miss being ignored and avoided?  Would I miss the constant fear that the other shoe was about to drop?

I suspect that there are some who are thinking that I am suffering – and rightly so – by losing my relationship with the church  and with them as individuals.

Let me assure you, getting out from under that tyranny has opened me up to incredible freedom and joy indescribable!  You see, God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear – so what was (and is) happening there is not from God.  God gives us a spirit of love and power and a sound mind.

Finally, my mind is sound! Finally, I sense the power of the Holy Spirit.  Finally, I am free to love and serve as one indwelt by God.

Yet I cannot help but wonder at the tyranny under which those who believe they were my friends yet live.  How do I know you live under tyranny?  Because you have followed your leaders in forsaking me.

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