Often we do not know how our words and actions affect and harm others. However, ignorance is not an excuse. As the body of Christ, we must be willing to look deeply at the implications of the choices we make. When those choices cause harm – intentionally or unintentionally – we must repent and ask for forgiveness.
Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith was a cry from my heart and the hearts of my coauthors as we wrestled with what it means to be the church of “Good News” in the 21st century. So many people do not see the evangelical church from that perspective. The church – rather than being Good News – is often a painful place where broken people, judgment, and criticisms prevail.
My family has experienced first hand the church taking unwarranted and painful actions. When I was a child, the church judged my family for taking a situation of abuse to the county government court system. The church said we weren’t handling the situation “within” the body of Christ. When I was a teenager, I watched as my parents grieve alongside their pastor and best friend who was ousted by a group of unsettled leaders within the church. My parents stopped attending. Later in life, the pastor of a church where I was serving started to have personal feelings for me. When I didn’t return the favor, he forbid me from being in leadership. These are just some personal examples of places where I have experienced hurt by the church. Unfortunately, my story is not an exception to the rule.
I could also recount times where I as a leader in the church have harmed people. At times I have led with a harsh word or criticism. In other situations, I thought I was holding people accountable, and sought to do so in a loving way, but I still hurt people deeply on the journey. In some of those situations, I have had the opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to repair the damage. In others, the brokenness of my poor choices remains.
How does God call us to respond to this brokenness within ourselves and the church communities where we serve? Repent. Confess. And be reminded of the true Good News of the Gospel – we are forgiven and redeemed because of faith in Christ.
Forgive us, Lord.
Forgive us for the ways we are broken and not yet made whole. Forgive us for the ways we have caused pain to individuals and communities. Forgive us for the harm we have brought to one another and the ways we, as the body of Christ, have hurt people. By your grace, bring healing to the broken places that have resulted from our poor choices and the choices of those who have gone before us. Reveal your goodness in the midst of our weakness. Restore us to right relationship with you and with one another. Teach us to be faithful as we seek to love you, the body of Christ, and the world. Be glorified.
In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon serves as the Senior Director of Advocacy and Outreach for World Vision. She is the author of Social Justice Handbook and Just Spirituality.
Image: Praying hands, Jesus Cervantes / Shutterstock.com