Loving Your Enemies When They Are Church Culture
Confessions From the Queen of the Crazies
Long ago, in church, a friend called me “the queen of the crazies” because of my tendency to hang out with all the people who don’t fit in well at church. With the people closest to me, the honorary title has kind of stuck. I wear my title with pride because I think it shows that I see people the way Jesus does. I also wear it with heartache, because I know how hard it is for people to fit in to church culture.
See, I know that those people who were labeled “the crazies”. They just had some minor struggles and personality quirks that made them seem slightly odd in church culture. I think of some of my favorite people and all of their problems. I KNOW they’d never fit in at church.
When I think about this, it feels me with rage. I want my friends to know how awesome Jesus is! Jesus was all about being welcoming and accepting. Why is the culture of the religion built around his teaching so closed and unaccepting?
Deep down, if I’m completely honest, I feel like I’m justified in hating people for that, right? What if I call it bitterness? Righteous anger? Extreme annoyance?
My Latest Struggle With Loving My Enemies
As I wrestled with these feelings this week, I sat down to write about Matthew 5.
There it was: “Love your enemies”. I could hear my own annoying words echoing in my head. “Jesus never left us the option of settling for being able to feel indifferent towards our enemies, we are supposed to actively seek good things for them.”
I have been to this wrestling match before. It is HARD. I’ve dealt with my feelings towards all kinds of people who abused me and people I cared about and frankly, a lot of people I just find irritating AF. I know that as I wrestle with forgiving people and ultimately praying and hoping for good things for them, I have to confront all of my own b.s. and baggage.
This is not a fun process though it is completely freeing and the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. It’s completely worth the effort. But ohhhh the effort.
So here I am. I’m a week into what seems like it’s going to be a long process. My “enemy” is a vague group of people who have made following Jesus into a twisted religion that hurts the people I care most about. How am I going to forgive them? How am I going to LOVE them? (Did I mention I don’t want to?)
Here is my half-hearted, honest, raw, embarrassing, attempt to begin the process.
It’s an open letter to people caught up in church culture.
My Prayer About Hating Church Culture
Dear American Church Culture,
It is hard for me to even begin to put into words the hurt that you have caused in my life. It is even harder for me to acknowledge how much hurt I’ve seen you cause people I care about. I think that is the hardest thing for me to forgive you for. I brought so many people to you trusting that you would show them Jesus and you didn’t. You showed them a system and a vision for furthering that system. You told them to be part of that system and to empower that system.
I wanted you to see them. I wanted you to see me. I wanted you to value us. I longed for you to see God at work in us and to encourage that. You didn’t.
I struggle to forgive you. I am bitter. Often , I hate you. Always, I hate the hurt you caused. Always, I hate how you misrepresented Jesus to me, my family, and so many people that I care about. I will always hate that.
I pray for you and God softens my heart. You do not know how freely God accepts you. You can’t possibly fathom his love for you or you wouldn’t be so stingy with it. Your fear of messing up shows that you don’t understand how “in” you really are.
There is a world out there full of people that God really loves and is seeking. You are afraid of them. You have reacted to their attacks with defensiveness and you walled up your community. You are missing out. You aren’t just hurting other people, you are hurting too.
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You are full of fear: fear of change, fear of losing your power, fear of losing control, fear of admitting you aren’t always right, fear of the uncertainty and evil in this world. You don’t feel strong enough to walk freely in the world of uncertainty.
I know that even as I write and try to forgive you and love you, my letter is dripping with condemnation. I pray that God will help me separate my hatred for some of the things you do from my feelings for the people in the system. I honestly do pray that God would open your eyes. I believe your heart is in a good place. I believe most of you really care. I believe you were never prepared for the abrupt change our world has gone through. You don’t have role-models to look to. You are charting new territory. It is scary. I pray that you have wisdom, love, boldness, mercy, and grace as you go forward. I pray that together we all build the kinds of communities that Jesus taught about.
I pray that when we all stand face to face with Jesus one day, we are all rejoicing together at all the “crazies” we brought into his kingdom.
I pray that I will learn to forgive you a little more every day and that I might even be able to help you.
I welcome your comments and criticisms. I know I’m wrong. I know I’m bitter. This is my honest journal. This is where I am.