Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Was Hurt...By The Ministry

"As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard.  Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.  And Eli said to her, 'How long will you to on being drunk?  Put your wine away from you.'" - 1 Samuel 1:12-14

Hannah's is the heartbreaking story of a woman who desperately wanted to have a child.  No matter how her husband showered her with love and affection nothing could replace the deep longing in her heart.  It must have been terribly heartbreaking for her to watch happy mothers walking with their children, the sight of newborns held near to their mother's hearts and the daily buzz of youngsters at play in the streets around her house all the while thinking, "I will always be an observer; nothing more."  Hannah had reached a place of emotional distress akin to a nervous breakdown.

Very wisely, she ran to the House of God.   Falling to her knees exasperated by her anguish, the woman began to pray but words failed her.  Her lips were moving, her heart was screaming but the capacity to speak was stifled within her.  Seated nearby was Eli the Priest, a Man of God, who saw her actions and perceived them in a most curious way.  As he watched her mouth he drew the conclusion that this obstinate woman had come into the House of God in a state of drunkenness.  He arose, walked up to Hannah and rebuked her soundly.  And he was wrong.

Eli had made the ofttimes fatal mistake of assumption.  He looked at the evidence before him, misinterpreted it and reacted incorrectly.  Yet no one can question the fact that Eli was a Priest, a Man of God.  It is difficult to forget that Eli had great difficult with two rebellious and idolatrous sons who attempted to carry out their own priestly duties while in a state of sin and that he carried the weight of their actions most precariously.  But he was a Priest, a Man of God.  His was not the perfect life nor was his family the picture of spiritual fidelity.  He was a Man of God; a MAN of God.

Men of God are men and, as such, are not infallible.  It would be wonderful if a Pastor could stand and say, "I have always handled every situation correctly, treated everyone fairly and have never reacted incorrectly to anyone who God entrusted to my care."  Unfortunately, there is not a Pastor alive today nor has there ever been who could say so honestly.  Men of God are men.  Men make mistakes.  Men have misunderstandings.  Men misjudge, mishandle and, although having the best of intentions, might misspeak or mistreat.  Of course we hold Men of God to a higher standard than everyone else, but we must be fair and not expect them to be infallible.

Being hurt by the ministry is a great difficulty to overcome.  Part of that comes from the fact that we often look to the ministry as though they are never allowed to make an error in judgment.  It is unfair and unreasonable of us to put that yoke on the neck of a Man of God.  He is a man and men will fail.   We are not talking about Men of God who abuse their office and are obstinate or hurtful purposely because they feel their position entitles them to such a demeanor.  Rather, consider the plight of a Pastor who is doing everything in his power to carry out his calling according to the will of God and, in the process, makes a mistake.  Perhaps he makes several mistakes.  Perhaps he makes several mistakes in your regard.  That doesn't mean he is a bad man anymore than you making a mistake makes you a bad person.


How would you have felt had you been a desperate woman praying in church so fervently for a child that words just couldn't come out only to be faced by the Man of God and told, "Get up you pathetic drunk," when you knew he was wrong?  It was hurtful.  We probably wouldn't have reacted like Hannah did.  She explained herself and, in turn, received a blessing from Eli.  More than likely, we would have left in a huff, slung gravel against the side of the church building with our car as we sped out of the parking lot, slammed the door when we arrived home and then brooded over the event.  We would have talked about it with our friends, neighbors and other church people never thinking to take it to the Man of God who caused the offense.  This might satisfy our temporary angst but does absolutely nothing to bring about healing for our wounds.

So what should we do if we feel hurt by the ministry?

- Go back to the offending Brother.  Yes, "the offending Brother."  Although we are speaking about the ministry, that individual is your Brother.  A Man of God is still your Brother in Christ even though he has been entrusted with spiritual authority in the Church.  Obey Matthew 18:15.

- Give an honest assessment.  Have you ever done something unintentionally wrong to someone only to have them blow it far out of proportion?  It happens quite frequently.  Do not dress your offense in elaborate clothing.  Strip it down to basics and look at it honestly so that it may be dealt with in complete honesty.

- Accept an honest explanation.  Do not assume that you were hurt by the ministry because the ministry enjoys hurting people.  Such is simply not the case the majority of the time.  Instead, be willing to accept that a Man of God can make a mistake without that meaning he is a bad man just as you can make a mistake without that making you a bad person.

- Communicate with God and the ministry.  One would be foolish to believe that reconciliation is the end of a matter.  After an injury you will begin to, naturally, interpret future statements and actions through the lenses of your past experience.  Because of this, innocent actions may be misinterpreted.  Furthermore, there will be times when you will remember the past hurt and begin to give place to it all over again.  Bitterness is then only a step away.  In those times, have honest communication with God and with your Pastor and use that as a way to dig up the root of bitterness that may grow into a fatal fruit.

In a best case scenario and by following those steps, your Man of God will have the opportunity to respond as Eli did to Hannah; with a blessing.  Before you run away from the local Church, give your Pastor every opportunity to make right what may have been done wrong.


There are other hurts that come from the ministry which are far more severe.  These are when a Man of God turns into a monster.  Child molestation.  Adultery.  Lying.  Stealing.  These go beyond errors in judgment.  These are sins; crimes against people and against the holiness of God.  And while there is forgiveness for these sins, they all carry a heavy weight of punishment both by the law of the land and by the Word of God.  Many are disqualified from ministry because of their foolish and sinful actions.  We must be merciful but we must also not have so much pity as to ignore their acts and simply go on as though nothing has happened.

People's lives have been destroyed by monsters in pulpits.  These gross hypocrites have even used their positions to place others in victimizing positions.  What must be done to the Man of God so fallen from grace is a side issue.  But what about you who remain who have been affected by the actions of such a one?  As difficult as it might seem, the answer is the same as with unintentional errors although the methods are somewhat different.

- Go back to the offending Brother.  As difficult as it might be, there is a certain amount of healing which can take place when given the opportunity to forgive someone who has wronged you so deeply and despicably.  You are bound by the law of grace to forgive.  You are not, however, expected to forget.  The ability to forgive that individual is a gift of grace that must be sought in prayer.  You may not be able to do it right away but must work toward a place of forgiveness.  Again, forgiveness does not mean that you condone their actions nor that you will restore them to a "normal" place in your life.  It simply means that you have reconciled yourself to the fact that this individual has already hurt you enough and you will not allow a lack of forgiveness to send you to hell on their account.

- Give an honest assessment.  Do not exaggerate.  Do not give false witness.  Do not attempt to cover up.  Do not protect.  Do not defend.  Be honest.  When an intentional wrong of this nature has been done, come forward immediately.  But, whatever you do, speak the truth.  Do not lie.  Furthermore, be honest in seeking help and counsel in your recovery.  Do not be dishonest by saying you are alright when you are torn apart inside.  Get help.

- Accept an honest explanation.  This does not equal excusing the actions.  Deal honestly with the facts as they are presented to you.  Part of that honest explanation includes the fact that, just because THIS Man of God turned out to be a monster, not all Men of God are like him.  Trust will not come easily but you must find that place of trust in prayer.  You must accept honest answers to difficult questions even when those answers are hard to accept and possibly even hurtful.

- Communicate with God and the ministry.  Your prayer life will probably be hindered.  Be prepared.  You will find it difficult to face God because of the hurt that one of His representatives caused.  You must accept that it is not God's fault that a man transformed into personified evil.  God must be exonerated before He can begin to heal you.  Once you realize He is not culpable, you can begin to overcome.  This comes only by open and honest communication with God.  Furthermore, you must find ministry you can trust to aid you in your recovery.  It will be hard to accept and even harder to do, but you can find a Man of God who is trustworthy.  They are not all the same.  There are Men of God who will love you and help you through the process of healing.


In a perfect world no one would ever be able to say, "I was hurt by the ministry."  We do not live in a perfect world.  We must learn how to live in a world of imperfection.  In doing so, it must be remembered that men are not gods, promises are only as good as the ones who make them and pain is an unavoidable part of life.  When we are the victims of an unintentional error we must be willing to reconcile.  And when victimized by those committing intentional wrongs we must be willing to be healed.  If you have never been hurt by the ministry, you should be aware that such a hurt will probably come.  Very few Saints of God, or other Ministers for that fact, can boast of having never been injured at the hands of the ministry.  This doesn't negate the ministry in the least.

We must press on through injuries and learn to respond to them properly.  In the end, the most important thing in our lives is not whether or not we made it through life unscathed but whether or not we made it to the end with our salvation.  Salvation involves overcoming.  Purpose in your heart to be an overcomer.  You are not in error to feel hurt at times.  We all will feel that way eventually.  You are only in error when you refuse to allow yourself to be healed.

"If you seek the physician's help, you must uncover the wound." - Boethius 
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