Lately I’ve been working on a book project aimed at 2nd Generation evangelicals. In the last few years, there has been a surge of books authored by young evangelicals who have been hurt by the church. Some have stayed in the faith. Others have lost their way.
I’ve read a few and have been saddened by the myriad ways in which Christians can cause pain. These books serve as a helpful warning to my generation of church leaders. May we hold our power lightly and live out the faith we preach.
But something else saddens me about the memoirs. Not only are many questioning methods and allegiances (a good thing, in my view), but the very essence of the faith.
They so dislike the bathwater of evangelical Christianity; they’re throwing out the baby of orthodoxy.
I understand the logic. If you’ve seen theology poorly applied, it’s only natural to question everything in it. But there is a danger. Simply because a leader, a denomination, a movement has misapplied Scripture in one area, it doesn’t mean the totality of their set of beliefs is wrong.
For instance, consider the raging debate about the doctrine of Hell fueled by Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read several reviews. Some of those who defend Bell are quick to share the most extreme stories of preachers using the very biblical doctrine of eternal Hell to intimidate and bully. I’ve seen this myself.
But simply because some have wrongly used this doctrine doesn’t mean it’s not true.
The tendency when we’re hurt by other Christians (as I have been) is to look at those Christians and judge the infallibility of the Word of God by the fallibility of Jesus’ followers.
We’d do better to stop looking at bad Christians and look anew at Christ Himself. And perhaps the obscure story of Malchus is a good place to start (Luke 22:49; John 18:10). Malchus is the Roman guard whose ear was cut off by Peter’s ill-advised use of the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter loved Jesus, but his embrace of the sword went against Jesus’ teaching. Jesus not only rebuked Peter, but healed Malchus’ ear.
I always wondered why John mentioned Malchus’ name. But I wonder if perhaps Jesus healing touch was not only applied to this soldier’s ear, but also to his heart. Some have speculated that Malchus became a follower of Christ and a pillar of the early church.
We don’t know. But we do know this: Jesus is in the business of healing those who’ve been hurt by His followers. There are many in our world today like Malchus’s. They’re ability to “hear” Jesus has been cut off by someone who claims to follow Christ.
Let’s face it. At its best, the Church is clumsy. We often operate with fleshly motives. We have agendas that go beyond the gospel.
If like Malchus, you’ve been hurt by the Church, the temptation is to live your life dwelling on the hurt. But that doesn’t have to be the end of your story, for if you focus your gaze away from the offender and onto Christ, you’ll find healing and hope.
It’s a serious thing when a Christian takes up the sword of offense. People are hurt. Lives are damaged. We inflict a spiritual deafness to those in our crosshairs.
But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus is bigger than any Christian’s ability to offend. God is greater than the hurt. And those who feel the pain can find healing in the simple touch offered by Jesus.