by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
I hope you focus on this verse today because if you have suffered spiritual abuse, you have encountered a thief intent on stealing, killing, and destroying you. So cling to the life that Jesus gives – abundant life!
And that’s what today’s post is about, too.One of the things that I learned as I walked through those first few weeks after being tossed out of our church is that since we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s acceptance, favor, grace, or unconditional love, we don’t have to measure up to anyone’s standard in order to keep God’s acceptance, favor, grace, or unconditional love.
We Christians are really big on things like following the rules and holding one another accountable. (The funny thing about that is that in my experience, being held accountable is pretty one-sided.) Generally we all agree that you can’t earn your way into heaven by doing good deeds and we are quick to proclaim that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” But after we become believers, suddenly we are held to a standard – lots of standards. We have to follow rules – some scriptural and some man-made – or we find ourselves on the not-good-enough black list. We have to demonstrate through our deeds that we are “true” believers or our faith is called into question. I personally found myself in a situation in which pointing out the ways in which I and others were not being treated with respect and dignity by staff and leadership indicated that I was unacceptable and unworthy because I strayed from the expectation that leadership is to be coddled and given only the most positive feedback. To even politely share a grave concern was cause to have the rug pulled out from under me and to be attacked by the pastor’s “yes-men.” And then, to be told that I was unwanted and unworthy to serve or attend classes at the church could only mean that my standing as a Christian was suspect.
We’ve all heard the arguments that if we don’t work hard at rule-keeping, if we don’t work hard at measuring up, if we don’t work hard at being a “good” Christian, we run the risk of back-sliding, re-crucifying Christ, or being apostate. Then there’s that whole business of “If you don’t believe exactly what I (the preacher/leadership) believe, if you don’t agree with me on every jot and tittle theologically, then you probably aren’t a Christian.”
When I started realizing that my behavior had nothing to do with STAYING acceptable to God, or with STAYING saved, or with still being loved unconditionally by Him, I took another huge step toward healing. God’s love, acceptance, compassion, or mood has nothing to do with my behavior. How arrogant must we be to think that we have the power to control God’s mood? “God’s going to be angry, irritated, frustrated, sad, with you if you don’t read your bible all the way through at least once a year, pray every morning at 4 AM, tithe 10% to your church, or stroke your pastor with compliments every time you see him.”
I don’t have that kind of power.
And neither do you.
God so loves the world . . .
Lo, He is with us always . . .
God will never leave us nor forsake us . . .
Add a bunch of conditions to God’s unfailing love and infinite grace and it’s no longer unfailing or infinite.
This is the freedom of faith.
This is the joy of the gospel.
So, I want to encourage you to stop attaching strings to your salvation. God isn’t mad at you. His back isn’t turned. He isn’t angry or moody because you didn’t live up to someone else’s expectations.
Right there is reason enough to love Him, don’t you think? And rest. And stop the human doing. Because it’s enough that you are a human being. Be free. Indeed.
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