We are examining how Jesus' struggles are our own and how He understands what we are going through more than we know.
A little back story here. I became born-again at age 14, back in the 70's. My family was Christian because that was the general atmosphere in the 40's and 50's in America. When I was little, we went to church but once I grew a little older, our family stopped going.
I met Jesus in Hawaii. After a long and arduous search for meaning in this life, having watching a Holocaust film in the 8th grade, I prayed one night and a warmth permeated the room. I had met God and began this walk. I still am a seeker of truth in all things. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, I grew up in an alcoholic home and that remained our family's secret. My dad told me that my mother was slowly committing suicide by drinking; her own mother had committed suicide and she never recovered from that trauma. That was her family's secret. So, we had one also. Truth was not at a premium in my home; keeping the domestic peace was.
The second reason I seek out the truth of things is that justice is rarely meted out in our world; people literally get away with murder and the Holocaust proves that. How many people were convicted after the war versus the number who participated and snuck off into history? If this world is it, and there is no transcendent Court, then evil won. then and still wins now.
But if God will one day sit in the ultimate Supreme Court and will not send people to hell, but sadly watch them receive the logical result of their choice of having lived without Him in their lives, then goodness wins. Live without God now, live without God in eternity. Choose Him here, choose Him for eternity. It's quite simple, and I find peace in knowing that eternity is the final righting of wrongs. That is why the Word declares:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Rev. 21:1-8)
Wow. What a lovely vision of the future. This is a future where justice and mercy has prevailed.
So as a new born-again Christian, I walked up to a little neighborhood church and spent eight years there, being discipled. I had wonderful role models of how to walk in the Lord, with people who really cared about this awkward teenager. I was well grounded in the Scriptures and enjoyed church as my second home, because mine was falling apart, with my father leaving us when I was 16.
Only until recently had my church experiences been anything but positive. Yes, there were a few skirmishes here and there, but nothing to make me doubt church altogether.
Then, in 2015, our church saw our pastor retire and a new one came on board. This was the beginning of my slow but sure disenchantment with the church.
This new pastor knew his Bible extremely well and that inspired me to dig deeper. We studied the Word in a group and studied the art of preaching. I preached a few times and loved it. He didn't. I led worship, which he appreciated, but at times, when he felt threatened, he would put me down. So, I was praised then punished. This roller coaster started getting to me, but being a codependent person, I kept adapting and making mid-course corrections. His displeasure triggered me because I had that same dynamic with my dad. Then this pastor blamed me for something I did not do, and he was furious with me. Despite my effort to reconcile and clear the air, he maintained his anger. When I got an opportunity to lead worship at a new church with my daughter and son-in-law, I took it. The church had decreased significantly in size and I wanted a change after serving there for eight years. This pastor never spoke to me again.
I then went to a new church and served on the worship team. My life at home was having its challenges but I enjoyed the pastor there, and sought to expand my service. The pastor's wife had me teach a Bible study, but wanted to critique how I was doing it after each session. It's hard for me to stay on script if I feel led to share something. She was not supportive of this, and wanted me to limit my personal input. So now church and home were pulling me down. My depression had been increasing and my tolerance for any kind of conflict was very low. I left.
A few months later, Covid hit. This church opened back up way too soon, even allowing an inside wedding in the middle of the pandemic. So, sadly, my days were numbered there, because I would not have supported the pastor in his conduct during the pandemic. Later on, I did attend one more time, and I was able to reconcile with the pastor and his wife. But because I just couldn't bring myself to trust their judgment in some areas, I left for good.
But this church was not alone. An angry line was drawn in the sand by many churches in Idaho. Many Christians here were divided over wearing masks. We went to another church wearing our masks, and one woman sat in the sanctuary while we waited for the service to start talking loudly about people who wear masks in less than supportive terms. The pastor was a keen young man with a love for the Word, but the church folks were so unfriendly that we stopped going after a few visits. That was last summer.
Then I watched over the course of the year the accusations, angry and acrimony waged in the Body of Christ. Wow. I was stunned and stopped going to church altogether, even watching ones online. I just couldn't watch, in good conscience, those churches who were acting as if nothing was wrong, while many people were dying here in America and around the world.
Strike three. I was out.
I was so disenchanted with how the Body responded to the pandemic in Idaho and in many states that I deeply questioned Church altogether. For a long time, I have had serious misgivings about business models informing the creating and running of a church. The rise of the mega-church with all eyes on a charismatic preacher and an emphasis on branding and production has bothered me as well. But when Covid hit, and some pastors mocked the pandemic, along with many Christians who took umbrage with the government, going so far as to call it a hoax, I was flabbergasted. To add to the excitement, we saw secular news reports of several prominent pastors who were called out for immoral behavior.
To walk away from church has been hard. I will not be a hypocrite and sit or watch online a church where I cannot agree with their course of action or current attitudes.
Yes, to be forgiving as a Christian is central; I have really struggled to be so. Forgiveness is especially hard when it's your brother or sister in the Lord, because you expect them to know better, right? They stand on the same ground won for them by Christ as I do. They have built their lives on the Word--so when the world starts yet another storm (and it will) we all stand tall together, right?
I am not proud of how I responded at times, with a lot of pride mixed with hurt and utter bewilderment. At times, I felt like that Pharisee; at other times, I felt like that publican, in Jesus' parable.
Jesus gets it all too well. His biggest challenge was not those who did not believe; His biggest challenge was the "Church"--that organization erected by men in the name of Judaism with a mixture of all-too-worldly values and a serious desire to uphold the Torah and serve God.
I would like to, in my next blog, look at His encounters with religious leaders and see how He responded. I would like to understand His Body better, and I am praying His Spirit will give us insight as we look at Jesus' life.
Blessings to you.