We were new to the church… and something foul was afoot.
Which church was it? Doesn’t really matter. When did this happen? Early enough into our pastorate that I didn’t know half of what I would come to know. Why am I telling you any of this? Because I learned something that’s probably going to get me in some trouble. Okay, so a LOT of trouble.
But I hope it will encourage YOU, as we as believers are called to be light in a dark world.
We were new, like I said. And I, as the Superhero Pastor’s Wife (da, da, da, DUH!), was asked to mediate a disagreement between two women in our church. Oh yeah, you see where this is going, don’t you? We’ll call our two friends Barb and Sue. Barb came to me and told me that Sue was angry with her. Barb couldn’t figure out what was going on. She’d gone to Sue to clear it up, but Sue was having none of it. So Barb, being a biblical thinker, sought the Word of God for counsel on what to do when you have a disagreement with another believer. Go to them first. If you can’t work it out, bring in another believer.
Enter the Superhero Pastor’s Wife (da, da, da, DUH!) who was certain that if we just prayed and sought the Lord together, we would resolve that conflict without any problems. Because, hello? Loving Jesus and all! Shiny, happy people holding hands!
Barb and I arranged a meeting with Sue. We sat down. I prayed. I asked them to explain what had happened. Sue began airing grievances that were older than me. (I’m talking pre-disco-era grievances.) Barb couldn’t remember half of the things Sue said she’d done, but with tears in her eyes, she apologized, telling Sue that she wanted to reconcile their relationship for the good of the church, falling on her sword to keep peace in the body of Christ.
What humility! What Christ-honoring love! What glory God was going to receive!
I was getting ready for it, my Superhero Pastor’s Wife heart just ready to be blessed, blessed, blessed.
But… oh, y’all, I’ll never forget it.
Sue looked at Barb with a coldness entirely devoid of the love of Christ and said, “Well, I don’t forgive you.”
Da, da, da, DU… what?!
I tried reasoning with Sue. Nada. Barb pleaded with her again. Nothing. We prayed again. Zip.
Sue, who claimed to be a believer, refused to be reconciled. Absolutely refused. Even though the dispute was harmful to the church, she wouldn’t let it go. Even though it was harmful to her (and it was!), she wouldn’t let it go. She held onto it, willingly choosing bitterness in her heart and causing division in the body of Christ.
I knew, as I sat there, what Scripture called me to do at that point. To boldly say this… “Miss Sue, you’re openly sinning against the bride of Christ and grieving the heart of God by refusing to be reconciled. We need to go before the church if you’re not willing to repent of this.”
Yes! That’s what Scripture calls us to do! But did I do it?
Not so much.
You see, Sue was well connected. Barb was, too. But at that moment, I trusted Sue a whole lot less than I trusted Barb, and I feared for my husband’s job. If I did the biblical thing and said what was right, I knew this woman could stir up some trouble. And God is a warrior and stands by the righteous, but sometimes His will calls for those of us in ministry to get all kinds of beat up by godless wolves who’ve infiltrated the flock. Not because He hates us or is sadistic but so we’ll learn to trust Him and not man.
Yeah, I didn’t want any part of God teaching me that. I still hadn’t unpacked all of our boxes yet, y’all!
So, we said goodbye to Sue on friendly terms. (Well, as friendly as she was going to get.) I took Barb aside and told her, “If she’s unwilling to repent, there’s nothing more that you can do other than pray for her. I think God is releasing you from this burden to get right with her.”
He released Barb… but He didn’t release me.
Oh, the regrets.
You have no idea how often my mind has gone back to that, to what I should’ve done, to what would have been the God-honoring thing to do. I stood by and let unrepentant sin have its way in our church because I feared the conflict that would come. Take that superhero cape off, ya big ninny.
I was a wimp, in other words. I valued man’s approval over the command of God. And would you believe that there came a day when Sue, who should have been dealt with then and there, came back and bit me in the butt? (Not literally. Though she just might have been capable of that…) And as I was reeling from her sin towards me, I thought, “Why is no one speaking up for biblical truth?! Wounded pastor’s wife over here! Hello?!”
Oh, and I remembered. I remembered what I’d done, how I’d looked the other way when it came to the conflict with Barb, and I knew with an acute clarity how I had grieved the heart of God by letting sin hurt the body of Christ.
It’s a hard lesson, Jesus. Going out, even as I have the fear of man, and doing the godly thing. Doing the hard thing, saying the hard thing, standing for truth when it’s not easy. Jesus, I so want us all to just be shiny, happy, people holding hands and all, but the more I know You and the more I speak the truth of Scripture, the more the world fights against it. You are a warrior, and I’m a wimp. But I’m not going to allow my flesh to keep me from living my life in obedience to You.
Friends, we have to stand on godly, biblical convictions. Looking the other way, especially when it concerns divisive sin within the body of Christ, is not of God. Denying the truth of Scripture because our adherence and obedience to it would cause us trouble is a sin that deeply grieves the heart of God.
Learning how to trust the Warrior more as He transforms even a wimp like me…