Healing implies that something is broken. Broken can imply pain. Many years ago, I fell down a flight of steps and landed on my right hand. I fractured my wrist in two places. The initial shock was painless. I knew that I had broken something when I grasped my right wrist with my left hand and could feel the bones moving. A friend immediately prayed while another offered to take me to a hospital emergency room.
When I arrived, the nurses knew that I had broken something. They immediately put ice on the broken area. Soon the doctor and the X-ray verified what I had suspected. It was broken!
I was taken to another hospital to have the bones set. It took about an hour to complete. When I left, I had four pins in my wrist and forearm. The pain was dreadful over the next few days. With loving care from the physician, the hand began to heal.
The terms Inner Healing, Healing Of Past Hurts, and other like titles have been our attempt to name a phenomenon of healing in which language already existed to describe it. Understanding communication is to understand the words of the speaker, not the meanings applied in the ears of the hearer. Regardless of what a person says he means by what he says, the fact remains that what you hear is what remains. When we use language like Inner Healing, we may not intend to be heard as dividing one’s personhood into smaller parts, but that is what often occurs because we have developed a fine-tuned way of thinking that says what it means to me is what it means, or saying it’s “my truth!”
My purpose is to offer some language, which comes from the pages of Scripture. The title of this article betrays the biases which I hold. Like God, we are all in the business of healing the brokenhearted.
Scripture records God’s concern about the broken-hearted in several passages of Scripture. Here are three of them:
- The Lord is near to the brokenhearted / and saves the crushed in spirit (Ps. 34.18).
- He heals the brokenhearted / and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147.3).
- The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me / because the Lord has anointed me /to bring good tidings to the afflicted. / He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted / to proclaim liberty to the captives / and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isa. 61.1).
It is from this last passage that Jesus read in Nazareth in the synagogue. After he read from Isaiah, Scripture informs us that his own people rejected him. He must have felt the deep pain of a broken heart, which gave him a visceral awareness of the need for healing.
My intention is to try to answer these questions:
- What gets healed when we become followers of Jesus?
- Is it necessary to go back and continually dig up the old person and heal some event from our past?
- Do we have all the healing that we are ever going to have at salvation?
- Are we only dealing with the results of things that have happened to us?
- What does it mean to confess our sins and be forgiven?
- Is there only a part of us that is saved?
- What does “set apart” mean?
- Does being set apart happen all at once or a day at a time?
- How is fellowship, which has become disrupted, restored?
- All of us have been broken; how many of us have been healed?
Confession and Salvation
When Paul was in jail in Philippi, the jailer cross-examined him with this question: “What must I do to be saved?” That night in the jail had not been a happy one for the jailer and his crew. He knew well that escape of any prisoner meant termination of his own life. With earthquakes and doors opened, he was surely apprehensive over his future. When he heard Paul and his companions singing, he must have been beside himself. He blurted out his question.
Remember, he was a Roman. He had no grid for salvation as a Western Christian understands or maybe misunderstands it nor even as a Jew may have understood it. We tend to read our definition into this story and see the jailer asking Paul about eternal life or going to heaven when you die. Such is not the case! What he was asking was “How can I be safe from the danger of being put to death for negligence?”
His question was purely secular. The answer that he received was not what he expected. It must have handcuffed his mouth. His question displayed his interest for immediate safety, the answer he received exhibited an assurance for eternal safety. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…,” responded Paul. Paul answered a cry because of the fear of certain death with a thin moment of kingdom rule. Paul’s answer was directed to something far more important than the jailer’s physical death. Paul understood salvation to be something that God does for people. It delivers them from their past sins and brings them power over continued sin in their lives.
In Mark’s gospel, we have a beginning explanation of salvation.
So John appeared in the desert, baptizing and preaching. “Turn away from your sins and be baptized,” he told the people, “and God will forgive your sins.” Many people from the province of Judea and the city of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They confessed their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan River (Mark 1.4 | GNB).
The Greek word translated confessed is homologeo, (pronounced ho-mo-lo-ge-o). It usually means “to say the same thing,” or “to agree in one’s statement.” When we come to God to confess our sins, we are only saying what God has already said about our sins. John 6 tells us that no one comes to the Son unless the Father draws him. Part of that drawing is the Father revealing our sins. When confession takes place, we say what God says our sins are. He initiates confession, and our part is to get in line with what he is saying.
Confession is the door to salvation. Paul has many things to say about salvation, but two of the most important tell us of the freedom it brings. In Galatians 3, he tells us that salvation brings freedom from the curse of the law. To the Thessalonian church, he shares that they have freedom from wrath (1 Thess. 5).
The conflict in the Galatian churches was over new Jesus followers returning to Judaism in order to become true Jesus followers. The new converts were being taught that Christ plus Judaism or the boundary markers of Judaism like circumcision, equaled salvation. On the contrary, Paul says that salvation delivers us from the law. It delivers us from the old and presents us with the new.
Paul provides clear insight into who initiates salvation in our lives. In Ephesians 2, he states:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God–not by works so that no one can boast.
In today’s society, most followers of Jesus feel they found God. In fact, Scripture suggests that he found us. One author has called God “the hound of heaven.”[ref]Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hound_of_Heaven[/ref]. He picks up our scent and pursues us until he catches us. He sets us up for himself.
The goal toward which we run is to become like his son Jesus. Paul explains this as well. He tells us in the fourth section of his book to Romans (Rom. 12.1-16.24) where he writes about how God has created “a new humanity” wherein the ecclesia can become truly human. He writes provides the following insight that points his Roman readers to the concept of new life, which means becoming like Jesus in our character:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will (12.1-2).
The word conform means “to mold your outward self.” To conform to the pattern of the world (i.e., this present evil age) is to direct your life according to this present evil age’s deception. On the contrary, Paul invites his readers to be transformed. The word means “to change one’s character,” (i.e., to set one’s goals in life according to the age to come). I will provide more language for this later, as we use these sentences again with further insight.
The person who has entered into this relationship with God is now in process. Aging usually adds to the quality of some products. This is the idea presented by Paul to the Corinthians who were all young in their relationship with God. Paul tells them that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1.18). This is a part of the now but not yet view about the kingdom of God in the Second Testament. God has invaded his world in the person of Jesus to continue the process of recovery. It has happened. It is complete. This is the now concept in kingdom theology. But all things await a final fulfillment. This is the not yet concept of kingdom theology. This process of salvation will continue with us all our earthly lives. Complete salvation awaits us in the hereafter. Eternal life has started now in our natural life and is fulfilled beyond our physical death.
What Does Saved Mean?
Like any other group of people, Jesus followers have their own language system. It is often called Christianese or Christian slang[ref]Dictionary of Christian Slang. https://www.dictionaryofchristianese.com/christianese-analysis-of-christianity-today-magazine-january-february-2018-issue/[/ref]. With Christianese, we describe what has occurred with a new Jesus follower as “God saving a soul.” This language betrays that one is working within a definite Greek thought-form. Thought forms are the basic foundation for our language use. The late Dr. George Ladd has presented us with a more natural view of what a soul is, in his book A Theology Of The New Testament.
Soul is not a higher part of man standing over against his body, but designates the vitality of life principle in man. God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. Body and the divine breath together make the vital, active soul. The word is then extended from the life principle to include the feelings, passions, will and even the mentality of man. It then comes to be used as a synonym for man himself (458). Psyche (often translated soul) and pneuma (translated spirit) are not strictly interchangeable but refer to man’s inner life view from two points of view. Pneuma is man’s inner self viewed in terms of man’s relationship to God and to other men; psyche is man as a living being, as a human personality…Paul never speaks of the salvation of the soul, nor is there any intimation of the pre-existence of the soul (Italics mine). [ref]George Ladd. A Theology of the New Testament. 460.[/ref].
A way to understand this is to provide an equation. Soul = Body (the physical part of a human) and Spirit (the spiritual part of a human). This equation is not meant to set up some Platonic dualism but to allow us to see humankind from two different perspectives. If we choose to use the terminology that God wants “to save our souls,” we need to be Hebraic instead of Greek in that usage. Yes, God does want “to save our soul,” i.e., our complete being: physical and spiritual. He does want to heal our body as well as our broken heart.
Heart of Hearts
The word heart is another word, which the Second Testament uses to describe a human. In Paul’s writings, the word heart is used in the following ways. It can be seen as displaying affection. It is often used in the following four ways:
- to talk about man’s intellectual activity
- to see the center of the emotions, both bad and good.
- to view as the seat of the will.
- to see as being at the center of experience with God.
Paul says that God shines in the heart (2 Cor. 4.6) and that the heart receives the down payment of the Spirit (2 Cor 1.22). He shares that the heart can experience the outpouring of God’s love (Rom. 5.5) and is the place where God dwells (Eph. 3.17). In regard to mending the brokenhearted, he says that the peace of Christ reigns in the heart (Col. 3.15).
One can see that when a person becomes a follower of Jesus and his/her sins are being forgiven, that the result of the sin on the heart may often remain on the heart, i.e., our emotions, affections, intellectual activity, etc. These are the areas that Jesus came to heal.
Scripture has a word to describe this activity of ongoing healing. It is sanctification. That sounds like a large scary word to most people, but it can be properly understood if one has a good basis for understanding. The foundation for this idea to make sense is structured around what theologians often call the indicative and the imperative or affirmation and exhortation.
Affirmation and Exhortation
The structure in Scripture that is fundamental for us to understand is the tension between the two ages. This concept pervades Scripture. Believers live in two ages simultaneously. Scripture calls these ages by several names, the most common being this present evil age and the age to come. Paul uses this kind of language in Galatians.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to him be glory for ever and ever (Gal. 1.3-5).
We are citizens of two worlds at the same time. We live in this present evil age while we are members of the age to come. The future has invaded the present in the first coming of Jesus. We now live in the presence of the future. The old age remains with all its evil and corruption. The new has overlapped the old. This structure is seen in the indicative and the imperative.
The indicative involves the affirmation of what God has done to inaugurate the new age. The imperative involves the exhortation to live out this new life in the setting of the old age.
The best illustrations for this structure are ones from Scripture. Here are only a few illustrations that can give you a taste of how this works. Knowing them can begin to help you see this structure throughout Scripture as you are reading.
The first illustration is from Romans 12.1-2:
Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In this passage, God’s mercy is the indicative. Mercy is something that God has given to each believer. Based on what God has given, one must respond to the imperative. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world….” The ultimate act of worship is to offer oneself to God. Paul wants his readers to understand that the mercy of the age to come has arrived. He also wants them to understand that there is a response in this age to that mercy.
The second illustration is from Romans 6.1-2:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
The affirmation that Paul is giving is directed toward stimulating human responsibility to become active. The exhortation is given in verses 6.12-13.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
What we see developing is a “his part – our part” perspective in Scripture. God will always do his part. He expects us to do likewise. What we most often want is something instant to happen so we don’t have to deal with the problems at hand. Here is a deception that we want to occur: God goes back in our lives and instantly heals and removes our problems. Now, we will be all better. Being healed is not always as easy as taking two aspirin for a headache.
The third illustration is in Colossians 3.3-5:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Death to our former life has occurred. We are dead now – but not yet. The power of sin has been broken, but we still choose to sin. The question is often asked that if we are really dead and our life is hidden with God, then why do we continue to sin? Because we live between the times. We are dead – but not yet. We can see this very thing illustrated in this passage of Scripture. The next sentence in Colossians is the exhortation for us to do our part.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Having once died with Jesus was God’s part, our responsibility is to put to death what belongs to the earthly nature. Having died with Christ gives us a more urgent reason for putting the things mentioned to death in our lives. In short, the life pattern of a follower of Jesus living in this present evil age is not the life pattern or standard of living, which is a part of the age to come. It’s a whole new story.
A final illustration can be seen in Galatians 4 and 5:
Because you are sons, God sent his Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Gal. 4.6-7).
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5.25).
What Paul wanted his readers to understand is that in their new life they had received the Spirit. But receiving the Spirit and living by the precepts of the Spirit is the difference between the indicative and the imperative. Receiving is the affirmation of what God has done. Now follows the exhortation.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Gal. 5.16).
The imperatives in Scripture are grounded in the reality of what has been accomplished by God, i.e., the indicatives. They are intended to bring to full reality the indicatives. We are new people in Christ. We have been fully forgiven of our sins. We do have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our lives. The imperatives of Scripture are to be obeyed in order to bring to full reality what already is.
One may be asking the question, How does this work with healing the brokenhearted? That is a good question. Here is a beginning answer. When God initiated our coming to him, and we responded, we became his children by saying the same thing about our sins that he has said about them. Our sins are forgiven. We are cleansed from our unrighteous past. While the sin has gone, the marks remain.
Let me illustrate. A friend of mine found out that he had a cancerous growth on his back. He had an operation to remove it. The incision by the surgeons made a “u” shape under his arm from his back to his chest. Several months after the operation while taking a shower, he allowed a hard pulse of water to hit the scar. He told me it was hard to describe the pain that was involved. He was reminded of the operation, recovery, and other memories. Over a year later, after guarding his underarm against pulsing water, and without realizing that he was doing it, he allowed the water to hit the scar directly again. There was no pain involved. The scar remained, but the pain was gone.
This concept is the way it is with salvation. The sin is gone, but the scars remain. As God initiates, the pain associated with the scar is looked at. Here is the indicative and imperative at work. God’s affirmation of sin removed is trustworthy. His exhortation to deal with the scar is to seek healing. One does not need to dig up the old man and smell the rotting carcass in order to be rid of the scars that are left behind. As we said before, Scripture has a word for this process. It is called sanctification.
Being Set Apart
Sanctification, one of many metaphors for salvation, is the work of the Spirit of God in our lives to help us develop the new life that God has given us. The ultimate aim of redemption is that as a redeemed human, we might live a life of fully restored communion with God.
Sanctification is a past factual event that took place in our lives. The process of sanctification is what occurs as we live out our new life in Jesus. We have been sanctified. In response to this event, we live in the process of cleansing ourselves from all that would defile us.
The word which is usually translated sanctification is hagiazo (pronounced ha-gee-ah-zo), and it usually means “to set apart.” Paul has a lot to say about this subject. Remember, the teaching of Paul is not a systematic theology. Rather, his teaching is centered around problems in the ecclesia and how they should be corrected. The imperative-indicative structure can be seen in Paul in First Corinthians concerning sanctification.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1.1-3).
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (6.9-11).
These two passages are affirmations of what the followers of Jesus in Corinth really were but not yet, but their behavior did not reflect who they really were now. The book of Corinthians was written to help them solve their problems— corporate and personal—so that they could become the people God viewed them to be.
A noted passage where Paul uses the structure of imperative–indicative is in his earliest book, Galatians. In chapter five, Paul talks about the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The works of the flesh are those habits of life, which are a part of this present evil age. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is the habit of life of the age to come. Paul exhorts his readers to put away one while taking on the other.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal. 5.19-23).
Reconciliation is necessary between two parties when something has occurred to disrupt fellowship and cause one or both parties to be hostile to each other. It is often the most overlooked part of Christian brother and sisterhood. It is important, however, in the process of having a broken heart healed. For the most part, we tend to bury the past with Christianese language such as “it is covered by the blood,” or “it has been cast into the sea of forgetfulness.” Things buried are not necessarily things reconciled. The quantum leap that usually happens in a person’s mind is that the sin or event that has caused us pain really never happened. This is living in denial.
In Paul’s writings, God is the subject of reconciliation and humankind is always the object. The following three passages reflect this.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5.18-19).
“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life (Rom. 5.10).
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– (Col. 2.21-22).
It becomes very plain from Paul’s writings that humans cannot reconcile themselves to God. Each must be reconciled to God by a divinely initiated action.
What Does All This Mean?
We have endeavored to produce a theological foundation for the topic of having our broken hearts healed.
- We have discovered that confession was initiated by God. The result of our confession was our salvation. We began a process that will last until we leave this life and enter life after death. We are saved – now, but not yet.
- What God has saved is our complete person, which includes our body and our spirit. He heals us completely. We discussed how the now – but not yet rule in Scripture works. God does his part and expects us to do our part.
- We shared about the process of sanctification, which brings this healing about. We are set apart for God’s purpose.
- Finally, we discussed reconciliation, the act that brings two parties together who have been hostile toward each other and have broken fellowship. God reconciled humankind, and he teaches us about this in Scripture. It serves as a model for a person to reconcile with another person.
The Power of God
While all the words above form, in my opinion, a good theological foundation for having your broken heart healed, it should be apparent that we cannot do this on our own. In segments of Christianity, there is a lot of teaching about and practice of the power of God.
It is my conviction that we often limit the power of God to physical healing, working with demonized people, and sometimes evangelism. The power of God is available in every part of our Christian walk. God is ready at any moment to share his power with us so that we can find further healing in our lives.
It takes his power to bring us to confession and help us confess. It takes his power to continue the process of sanctification in our lives. It takes his power to reconcile men and women who have found separation rather than fellowship as a place to live. It takes his power to bring us to forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.
My encouragement to you is that you remember that God has called your community and you to the confession of your sins; he has put you on a path to be sanctified. Reconciliation is the result of restoring fellowship in each of the areas of your life as God directs you. Finally, forgiveness is God-directed access for you to have your broken heart healed. Learn this: his power is available for you to be healed. Just ask, he is ready to answer.
Being broken-hearted is no fun, not even a little. The following two stories are some of several that I suffered from being brokenhearted in my life of several decades. Both of them have to do with rejection. I have often said to many folks that there is no one-sided rejection scenario. There is always guilt on both sides of the rejection, even if one has only caused 0.01% of the problem.
Early in my church career, my wife, Donna and I traveled across USAmerica from coast to coast doing ten-day church teaching gigs. During those days, we traveled by car, and at the destination church, we were either put up in guest quarters in the church or in a motel. One day we heard that one of Donna’s relatives who was pastoring in Southern California had resigned from his church. We were in Northern Missouri. We placed a call to the denominational offices and inquired asking for contact information. They supplied a contact person, and we placed the call.
In a short time, we were contacted and to make this part of the story short, we left Northern Missouri, drove West, and arrived for an interview with the church board. The interview went well, and we were offered to process through the candidate phase, which was usually a Sunday morning preaching event and then a vote. While in the interview, I offered them an alternative, if they granted me a so-called “try out.” I suggested that we come to the church for a Wednesday evening service for a teaching session, and then on the following Sunday for the two preaching services, Sunday morning and Sunday evening, with an open Q&A after the Sunday evening service. Yep, you read that right, a Sunday evening service.
The purpose for this proposal was built on the observation that everyone who does public speaking has a bad day and that this was such a large decision that the church body had to make that it might behoove them to see me in three different situations including the Q&A time in which no question would be off-limits.
They discussed it among themselves and decided that the proposal was a good plan to follow. So we set a date and worked through the process. At the end of the Sunday Q&A, the host took Donna and me to the pastor’s study to await the results of the vote result. The host returned and informed that the congregation had voted positively to call me as the pastor of their church. As you can imagine, we were overjoyed and accepted their call.
The church had grown rapidly within the community. The charismatic influence of the early ‘70s of last century had caused an uproar within the community with many who had a charismatic experience, namely speaking in tongues, who had been asked to leave their church because of their experience and their new found energy to convert everyone in their former churches to speak in tongues. That part of this church’s history, I had missed in my interview. So I inherited a two Sunday morning church service church with a group of “Spirit” folks who seemed to think that they had won the Spirit jackpot.
Over the first months, I began to hear some pretty weird stories of things that were going on in the church. Here are a few examples:
Several months into our time with this church, one of the couples in the church invited me over to their home for an evening meal. We accepted. As they told their story, I was amazed at their enthusiasm, but the examples of their spiritual growth were over the top. The husband told me a story of how he was sitting in his car within the local shopping center’s parking lot with his dog. He told me that his dog was a rather restless and almost endless barker. On that occasion, in the parking lot, he was endlessly barking, so the husband told me that he turned to the dog and cast the “demon of barking” out of him. Seriously, I about choked when those words came out of his mouth.
Several weeks later the same person, let’s call him Earl for ease, called me and told me he and his wife were only a block away from where we lived at a single lady’s house and in their conversation the lady, let’s call her Mable, told them she was having a hard time sleeping and they decided that she had a demon. So, he told me they had cast the demon out of her room and into the hall closet and wanted me to come down to the street to the house and see if the demon was in the closet. I kid you not! My response was simple. No, that’s not my job!
Another individual had been reading a popular book within the Charismatic movement and approached me one day and asked me if I believed if the Charismatic believers could walk on water. Before I could answer, he told me that he had been practicing “walking on water” in his backyard pool.
“Deep end or shallow end?” I asked.
I suggested to him that God can and does do wonderful things with his children. I asked him what influenced him to try such a feat. He responded that he had read in the popular Charismatic book[ref]Mel Tari. Like a Mighty Wind. Tari was later in 1994 convicted of fraud.[/ref] of the moment about the author’s experience of walking on water and thought that was a great idea. I suggested to him that the story in Tari’s book, as he told it, of him walking on water may have had a purpose in his missionary work and further suggested that he had not been practicing beforehand just in case.
He frowned again.
Several months into this pastorate, I came face to face with the primary group[ref]Resource Zone. “Primary Groups in Churches.” http://blog.resourcezoneinternational.com/primary-groups-in-churches/[/ref] within the church, and it was not the church board. It was a small group of folks with the oldest in the forties and the youngest in their mid-twenties. They began to make overtures to me, and I was too naive to know what they were doing.
They asked Donna and me to take a weekend off with them on one of their retreats. I told them that I would be happy to go with them to get to know them better but that I had to return late Saturday afternoon to teach on Sunday morning. That did not sit well with them. They insisted that it was okay to take off Sunday morning and spend it with them because the previous pastor had done so. When I saw there was no flexibility to meet part way, i.e., I would go with them but return for Sunday morning, they felt that I needed to stay with the through Sunday morning and return Sunday afternoon, I declined their offer. Little did I know that this decision would bring them to start a process within the church to have me removed as their pastor. It took them several months to get all their pieces in place.
Then one morning, I got a call from the district office requesting a meeting with the assistant district superintendent. I only received a partial reason for the meeting while setting it up. He arrived several days later at the appointed time, and after a few minutes of light conversation, he began. “Winn, we have received a complaint from one of your members requesting that the district set up a meeting to have another vote on you as a pastor, and we have decided that it will take place in two weeks in your regularly scheduled Wednesday evening meeting.”
I set in my chair completely stunned.
I asked a two-part question: “Who complained and what was the complaint?”
The assistant district superintendent, let’s call him Jim, said that he could not reveal the source to protect the “complainer” and that they would talk about the “complaint” in the Wednesday evening meeting.
I asked another question, “how is it that in a sovereign church associated with the denomination that it takes only one member to complain and the district comes in and take another vote on pastoring?”
He informed me that it was part of the Constitution and By-laws of the church that was instituted during the founding of the church. He told me exactly where in the By-laws that it was located. I looked it up after he left and found this curious set of words at the end of the section he had referred me to look at. I found this curious sentence in brackets at the end of the section. [Ths section may not be amended by the congregation.]
Well, to make a long story longer. The evening arrived. Here’s what happened. The district and assistant superintendent showed up at my office three hours early. They took Donna and me out to eat. While chatting, they told me that it was unfortunate that this was happening and in their experience in their positions, the results rarely favored the present pastor staying as pastor.
When the meeting time arrived. They called the meeting to order and explained what they were there for. Still, no reasons offered by the “one” complainer were provided.
When I was first voted on, I had to receive a two-thirds of the majority of members vote. That had occurred, and I only had a couple of no votes in the process. Now the announcement that knocked the wind from my chest. The two denominational gents said that they were offering a temporary amendment to the section of the by-laws the required a two-thirds majority on a vote for a pastor, to require only a simple majority and that the vote to amend only had to pass with a simple majority. I verbally objected to such a ludicrous move, but my complaint was overruled by the district superintendent. There were 100 members in attendance. The vote was held by secret ballot and soon was announced that it was a 50-50 tie. Then in a climactic moment, one of the primary group members that had instituted the farcical procedure held up his hand and told the chair that they had a letter from a member of the congregation with a vote in it that needed to be counted. The chair tried to verify that the letter was from an actual member of the congregation and was satisfied with the explanation of the carrier of the letter that the letter was really from a member. I objected again by citing that any vote for a pastor had to be in person; no absentee ballots could be counted. Again, the district superintendent overruled me. He opened the letter and read the vote to the congregation. Of course, it was in favor of removing me as their pastor. The vote was announced, and then the edict was pronounced. “Your present pastor has been removed from his duty here, and we will supply you with a tempory pastor until such time that a suitable pastor has been found as a replacement.”
Little did this congregation know that the district had put into motion that the congregation would have no say in who their next pastor was going to be because the tentacles of the district had declared that it would now be a “district church,” which meant that the district would appoint their next pastor for them.
Yes, both Donna and I left that meeting “broken-hearted!” What was more tragic was that Donna was pregnant with Jason, our first child who was due within the week.
During the following weeks and months, the pain would intensify when we would hear from some of our friends the vicious rumors that were being passed around our former church about us.
We developed a very small group of friends that would meet together with us to pray for us after our rejection. But, folks from the former church which were friends and acquaintances of this small group of people would pass on the rumors about us to them. They did not share them with us until one night, one of the couples said that he was so mad at the church that rejected us because he had heard a rumor from more that one member that someone in the church had passed by our house on a weeknight and there were several cars parked in front. The rumor was that Donna and I were hosting “sex parties” in our home on these nights. The enemy was still in full press mode.
Long story short! Over the following months, God provided for us in some pretty unusual ways emotionally and financially.
Several years later I was provided space by a local church for an office while I was in seminary. For the most part, I left my door open to the hall that led to the daycare center in the church. Almost daily, Halley would walk by the open door, look in and smile. Halley was the wife of one of the primary group of couples in the church who had rejected us as their pastor. She would smile and continue her walk.
One day I saw her walk by and then a few seconds later she reappeared and knocked on my open door. I looked up and greeted her.
She asked if I had a moment.
I responded, “yes.”
“I’ve walked by this door for many days now with my heart racing, thinking I should stop and speak to you. Today, I yielded. I would like to apologize for the part my husband, and I played in having you removed as pastor at our church. He and I have chatted many times about those days leading up to your removal and talked about how you never responded to the obvious heartbreak that you and Donna must have suffered, especially delivering a baby into the world and the bleak outlook that you must have experienced as an unemployed pastor. So, please forgive Jim and me for our part in this travesty.”
I was stunned!
What mumbled out of my chocked up throat was simple and plain: “I forgive you!”
She smiled as her eyes watered up.
May I ask you a question? I asked.
She nodded her head, yes.
I started with a small statement that went something like: “I never understood why your small group rose up in opposition.”
Then the question: “Can you tell me why you and Jim made your decision to send Donna and me away?
She paused for a moment and replied.
Our church had grown rapidly under the last pastor with the influx of many folks being forced out of their own churches because of the Charismatic Renewal in their lives. Our previous pastor spoke every Sunday supporting what was happening in our church by lacing together verses from all over the Bible demonstrating to us that the Spirit was moving in a very special way in our midst. But, after a couple of months of your teaching us the book of Acts, Sunday after Sunday, our group would meet often and talk among ourselves not sure of why it was so important to you to teach us in the format you had chosen. In our experience in churches, we had never heard of such, and we begin to complain among ourselves craving for our previous pastor’s approach, which seemed much more traditional. What we heard in Acts laid heavy on our group’s heart. Jim and I finally understood that our unrest was not with style but the content within the style. You were presenting church in a way that none of us had ever understood. Your insistence that it was not about what we received but what we did with what we received became painful to us. It simply grew too hot in the kitchen.[ref]The phrase: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’?” was coined by President Harry Truman in 1942. Interesting to me that that was the year of my birth. Go figure![/ref] We simply had to reduce the heat by removing the creator of the heat.” Quite the turn of a phrase on her part.
From that day forward as she passed my office door, she would look in and greet me. What a differenced a small chat had made.
Grape Vine Couple
Interstate 5 runs north and south through California. Going North, one has to ascend over a mountain pass called the “GrapeVine” ascending to Tejon Pass that links Southern California to the Central Valley in California.
Donna and I were driving North on a Sunday afternoon when a car pulled beside us and began honking their horn and waving to us to stop on the side of this busy road. We recognized the couple and slowed to pull off on the shoulder of the road while the cars were whizzing by us at breakneck speed. We exited the car and stood on the side of the Interstate and had this brief conversation.
“We sparked your car ahead of us and decided that we needed to stop you and apologize to you for our part in sending you away from our church.”
It was a short but meaningful conversation without any detail, just a plea for forgiveness.
Who knew our ride North on that afternoon on one of the business’s stretches of road in Southern Calfornia would produce yet another event on our road to having our broken heart mended and healed.
Moving Toward Forgiveness
The pain of the broken heart remained for a longer period of time until a close friend from the very church that had rejected us stepped in and suggested the ideas that were presented below to help both Donna and I recover from our broken hearts.
- The following ideas may provide you with some movement toward healing. These items had proven useful when I became hurt over some action and found myself ready to strike back.
- Create a time and place to pray for forgiveness. Make an appointment with God. Don’t allow yourself to be bound by spontaneous or subjective feelings of when to forgive.
- Approach God and tell him exactly how you feel. Tell him your honest emotions of how you feel. God knows what is in your heart. Confession is only saying the same thing that God has already said.
- By your own choice of will, forgive the person specifically for each thing that God brings to your mind. “I choose to forgive _____ for _____.” Then focus on the cleansing of God in that situation.
- Next, ask God to forgive you for your sinful reaction to the hurt, anger, etc., which occurred in the incident that you just forgave. Renounce any judgments you may have made against the person to release forgiveness.
- Now, invite the Holy Spirit to come and fill this hurtful place with his sincere love.
- Pray a blessing over the person you have forgiven.
- When tempted to take up the offense with the person in some shape, i.e., conversations with the person in a negative fashion, etc., maintain the forgiveness you have released on him or her and yourself by reminding yourself that the enemy has no room here to address this any longer in your life.
The important question in all of this is how does this work in the life of a community of faith as well as in our personal life? In all my years of ministry, I have discovered that forgiveness is the ingredient which brings about the final healing of a broken heart.
May the heart of your community of faith and your personal heart be healed!