Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Picking Sides

It starts early. Two square off and begin calling out names. In a matter of seconds the sides are chosen and the game begins. It continues on past school age. Two people want to be…on the board, a senator, or even President and lines are drawn and sides are chosen.

This practice has gone on for centuries. When civility, the good of all, and respect prevails, the process works. Today however, the picking of sides has gotten so intense there is a polarization occurring. “If I pick this side, then your side is wrong and we cannot get along.” This happens in elections, committees, homes, and even the church.

Currently, there is a movement exposing the exploitation of women by domineering men. Men who use their power to gain advantage, most of the time referring to unwanted sexual encounters. For the abused, the pain, fear, and anxiety consumes them. They don’t feel safe and always on alert to the pain and confusion. They also feel cast aside, shamed, and even made to feel as though they were the problem. Many remain silent living out the pain and confusion in isolation. As abusers are outed and exposed and we hear the stories of the victimized, we are reminded again that we live in a desperately broken world. 

The Church has not been immune from this brokenness. There are countless stories of women being victimized. There have been accusations leveled toward several pastors who’s names are recognizable and ministries have been significant. On a side note, it seems that accusations, no matter if they are true or not places the accused as guilty until proven innocent, bringing fruitful ministry to an end. But that’s another post.

A dynamic that is concerning about this whole issue is the choosing of sides that happens within the church. One has to declare their allegiance to either the victims or the accused. I believe Jesus is concerned about both the victims and the accused. His compassion, grace, and love is broad enough for both. I don’t understand it and it goes against all natural tendencies that vibrate through my bones. I want the guilty to pay dearly for what they have perpetuated. But, am I much different from those who are guilty? I have my own issues and sin. Do I really want to be isolated, condemned, and discarded? Or, would I hope there could be healing for me? Again, this is not to negate the story of the abused or give credence for abusers, but merely ask the question how does Jesus respond to brokenness?

Choosing of sides in the church and society causes a polarization. In the church the polarization occurs between brothers and sisters in Christ. It brings division, separation, and cripples the cause of Christ. Since when are we to choose who we love, support, and care for? Let me be clear; I am not saying that those who are guilty should not be brought to justice or experience the consequences of their sin. But, from my reading of Scripture we are all guilty and in need of forgiveness and grace. And, no one is too far gone in their brokenness that the redemption of Jesus cannot reach.

When it comes to the notable pastors and the accusations to date, why not let those involved in the issues: the leadership, the accused, and the victims be the ones to work through a process of resolution. I need to stand back and refuse the temptation to jump into the fray with limited information and pick a side!

What has been circulating in my mind regarding this issue is the role of the church in living out the unity, love, and compassion Jesus prayed for in the book of John. Can we stop choosing sides, dividing churches, ministries, and focus on building God’s kingdom? Could choosing sides be a diversion by the enemy to keep the church from her mission and cause us to be ineffective? 

The answer to this issue of abuse and how to respond is not easy, simple, or without mess. It's hard, but I believe doable, IF there is a commitment to come along side the victims, listen, care, and walk with them. AND, keep in mind the abuser is not the enemy. They are captives to an enemy and their sin, but in need of freedom from their bondage.

So, the next time you are tempted to choose sides, resist the urge unless you're playing kickball, choose to act in a way that will help people see the heart of Jesus!