The New Testament name for the church is ekklesia meaning “the called out ones” -a people drawn from darkness to God and to one another. “To be a part of a church, when it is right and good, is to plug into a loving power grid of possibilities and meaning and joy.”pg.42
I think one reason it hurts terribly bad to be hurt by a Christian is that church is the one place where you expect to be safe from harm. But Mansfield says “To be surprised that human nature would rear its ugly head – in the very place where it is under the greatest pressure to change, where the stakes are high and the devil strikes hard – is simply biblical ignorance and a failure to live in any sort of connection to the real world.”
He reminds the reader that those we meet at church and in homes for cell groups bear the image of God but also the scars of evil. We must not gloss over our world and believe that Christians are perfect or we will suffer in our naivete.
We all dream of that day of reckoning when those who wronged us come forward and say they were wrong and we were right. But the reality is people move on. People forget. And we are left to pick up the pieces. Mansfield says “Much that distinguishes maturity form immaturity – and happiness from misery – is how you respond to the offenses that life insists on dealing out to us all.”pg. 89
What does it take to heal and reconnect with the church? Forgiveness. This was my favorite section of the book so I’ll sum up what I learned from pages 102 to 108.
Forgiveness in the Greek has 3 meanings:
1. Aphiemi means to send away or to set free. On the day of atonement a scapegoat was chosen and carried to a solitary place and released into the desert, carrying with it all the sins of the people. Jesus is our scapegoat. To forgive is to place the sins and wrongs done to us on Jesus and send those sins away. The hurt needs somewhere to go and we won’t feel differently about the person who wronged us until we place that hurt somewhere else – that is on Jesus.
2. Alphesis means to release, as from prison. We need to release those who have wronged us from the prison of our mind. We hold them there in captivity judging them time and again – growing angrier by the day. We rehearse what we’d say to them if we could and how we’d explain ourselves. But to forgive is to release them from this prison of our mind.
3. Charisomai means to bestow a favor or extend mercy. Often we assume that those who hurt us were intentional. One key to forgiveness is to find the compassionate narrative behind their hurtful actions. We must enter the story of those who have wronged us to see why they behaved the way they did. After entering their story, we are more likely to extend mercy and forgiveness.
Do not give up on the body of believers we call the church. Darkness presses at the edge of light. We must overcome the darkness and cling to the light. If you are in a place of struggling to overcome past pain and hurt caused by the church, this book may be what you need to help you through. Mansfield’s real life pain, trials, rejection and finally triumphs will soothe your weary soul.
Walk with the King!