I wish this story had a happier ending, at least in the short term. I wish I could say the youth pastor apologized for lying to me, or even for calling me a hernia. He DID apologize… he was sorry that what he said offended me. But, that is COMPLETELY different than apologizing for what he said. Neither did the pastor apologize for avoiding the issue for so long… or for asking me misrepresent the truth to the teens.
It took me a LONG time to forgive them. But I have. Because forgiveness is on me. However, reconciliation is something completely different… and this, I feel is one of the most deep seeded issues in the American Church. I’ve heard so many sermons on the need to forgive. And, it’s true; as believers we are called to forgive those who sin against us. But, reconciliation is much more difficult. And if you’re part of a community of believers (a local church body), where reconciliation isn’t walked out, you might be in a place that’s doing more harm than good.
I recently came across this article, which sums it up quite well:
“Differing from forgiveness, reconciliation is often conditioned on the attitude and actions of the offender. While its aim is restoration of a broken relationship, those who commit significant and repeated offenses must be willing to recognize that reconciliation is a process. If they’re genuinely repentant, they will recognize and accept that the harm they’ve caused takes time to heal.”
Steve Cornell, How to Move from Forgiveness to Reconciliation (The Gospel Coalition, March 29, 2012)
Being forced into community with someone who has caused you harm, especially when it was intentional, is toxic… at the very least! But, not dealing with the offense (the sin) is incredibly detrimental to the local body. If we are to achieve the unity John speaks about in John 17, reconciliation is imperative. Forgiving and simply moving on is NOT biblical. Reconciliation requires the offending party to acknowledge they did something wrong. Until that happens, reconciliation will never happen.
Three years removed from this, our family is so incredibly grateful for that refining season. We grew closer as a family, but we also grew closer to the Lord. He has grown my heart in profound ways. Believe it or not, I can sympathize with the lead pastor. I get the PTSD associated with something like this. The Lord has grown my heart for those who have been hurt by others in the church, especially in similar circumstances to ours. We’ve met a lot of them on the road.
We’re also seeing some great examples of humble (imperfect) leadership. Men and women committed to leading well because they love well. And at the end of the day, I really think that was the issue in our situation. Not once, honestly, did we feel loved and respected during that process. As a church, we have to start there. The world is suppose to know our Savior because of our inexplicable love for one another. Right now, I think that’s more the exception than the rule. But at the end of the day, it’s something we CAN actually change. We start by loving others the way we long to be loved. And that’s what we decided to do.