Have you ever been at church and someone said something to you that made you want to slap the mess out of them? Then once you collect yourself for a moment, you sit there and think to yourself, why on earth did they think that it was alright to say that to me?!? Well, unless you’ve never been to church or are new to the church, it is probably safe to say that you have had a similar experience. Moments like that can be extremely discouraging, and unfortunately is the reason why some people have chosen to leave the church.
Although no one is perfect, there should be something different about the people of God and how they treat each other. I've personally had my fair share of run-ins with people in the church who have been outright rude to me, and there are a few ways that I've learned to deal with it.
First, I have learned to manage my expectations, because at the end of the day, the church is full of broken, fallen people, who are trying to get it right. There is not one person on this earth who has not gossiped, said hurtful things, judged someone, or acted out of pride, anger, or bitterness. So if someone in the church has recently said something that offended you, I challenge you to take a moment to sit with John 8:7 that says “let anyone without sin cast the first stone.” I’m sure you are saying when reading that, “yeah, I get what you are saying and all, but it still doesn’t make what that person did to me hurt any less.” Trust me...I get it. Regardless of how “spiritually mature” you are, you’re human, and when someone does you wrong, it will hurt. The last thing I want you to do is to pretend to be all “churchy” as if nothing ever bothered you. It will also do you a disservice to allow yourself to be a doormat for people in the church who act out of line and treat people wrong. Jesus was the ultimate model for the world when it comes to this. Although Jesus taught his disciples that they are supposed to love others, Jesus was never a punk. He did not equate being nice to being Godly.
When Jesus saw that a person was out of line, he wasn’t afraid to "check" them. However, Jesus was always tuned into how God was directing him to handle the situation. So when “a negative nancy” says something crazy to you in the church, it is important that you don’t allow ourselves to immediately respond to their foolishness with a fleshly “snap back.” Yes, your first inclination might be to curse them out, but other than making you feel better in that moment, your witness to others as a Christian has been tarnished. Instead, take a moment to breathe, say a quick silent prayer, and then challenge that person with a question like “Can you help me to understand what you hoped to accomplish by making that statement?” or simply say “If you want to help me, I would appreciate your prays about the situation, not your judgment.” In other words, say something to let them know, “I’m not the one to continue this type of conversation with (period!)”
In some cases, you might not have the opportunity to address the wrong that was done to you directly. It is so important in those instances to be prayerful and ask God to help you to forgive the person or people who hurt you, and not to allow bitterness to take root in your heart. The word of God reminds us in Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Although I know it won’t be easy, God instructs His children to forgive for a reason. The longer you stay bitter, hurt, and angry, the longer the devil is able to use that against you to prevent you from being able to experience all of the joys of life.
I’ve seen too many of God’s children walk away from the church because of a nasty encounter they had with someone. When someone does that, they give that person too much power over them. You are going to run into people you don’t like at the job, at your social clubs, and even within your family. The church is no different. However, the church does play a key role in equipping you for the spiritual battles you are going to face throughout your journey of life. So once you find the church that is right for you, plant your feet there until God says it is time for you to leave. Don’t let someone’s ignorance or their negativity push you away from where God wants you to be. No one, even that person who gets on your last nerve at church, is ever worth that.
Subscribe to Faith on the Journey's mailing list, to receive regular, relevant devotionals in your inbox throughout the week.