By Tom Shanklin
And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. (Zechariah 13:6, KJV).
This prophetic utterance from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah has reference to the suffering of the Lord Jesus at the time of His crucifixion and death, but it also has a parallel meaning for many people who have been wounded deeply in life.
A very deep hurt often occurs among those you love and trust. It can be from physical, verbal, sexual, or emotional abuse. It may come through a friend, a spouse or a parent. The cause may be an abusive, violent father or an overbearing domineering mother. Or, it can come as the result of the actions of uncaring, insensitive people in any setting. It can come through a betrayal or a breech of trust. Generally it comes from someone who is able to get close enough to wound you deeply.
Many people spend their life filled with rage, hurt, resentment and bitterness, dwelling on the source of their pain, rather than looking to the only one Who can really set them free, our Father God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sadly, deep wounds can even happen in a church setting. In fact, many people are carrying deep wounds received in the context of a local church. God’s will is to transform His Church into a loving, caring community of believers who can bring healing rather than hurt to the multitudes around us. If fact, the Lord has a very high vision and purpose for His church, and great affection.
I’ll never forget when I was driving to a meeting in northern Minnesota preparing my heart to preach the Word and the Lord spoke clearly to me and asked, “Are you mad at my Church?” At the time, I was upset with the church for a lack of zeal for evangelism. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with what I saw as a turned-inward, self-serving Church. Besides all that, I was still nursing some wounds which I received in a local church I had pastored. Immediately I replied with all seriousness, “Aren’t you?”I figured I was totally justified in my “righteous indignation.” I thought God must be “madder than hell” at His Church as well.
The Lord then answered me with such tenderness, saying “Son, I love my bride.” The Lord has a way of communicating a great deal with few words. When He said, “I love my bride,” I realized how jealous and protective He is of His Church, and what great affection the Lord has for her. When we speak against her and hold a critical spirit, it is a great offense to Him. It is like when you criticize a man’s wife or his fiance. It’s a terrible offense.
That day I began to adjust my attitude toward Christ’s body, the Church, and God began to heal some areas of my life. You see, the faults and flaws we see, and the hurts we may have received in the context of the Church, these things are matters of the flesh. But Jesus loves his bride and gave Himself for her. He cleansed her by His precious blood. He continuously loves His bride and is doing a work of sanctification in her through His Word. She is a work in progress. As the Scripture says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27, KJV.
In His mind, He sees perfection. He sees the finished product. When He looks at his Church, He sees a spotless bride. We, too, must know one another after the Spirit, and not the flesh, and see the beauty of the new creation of God. “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:16, 17, KJV.
We also need to see ourselves and other members of Christ’s body as new creatures, so we can overcome the many insecurities that hinder us in our relationships with others. Instead of looking at external things, such as weaknesses, flaws, stupidity, ignorance, prejudice, lack of zeal, etc., we need to look at the godly potential of others, because of the Spirit that God has put within them.
Many people bring their wounds with them into the Church where they receive more wounds and even cause more wounds. They have been wounded as a child, in a marriage, or another relationship, but their wound follows them into the Church. They may have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord, but there is still a need for healing in their life. God’s purpose for His Church is that we would be an instrument of healing for those that have been broken in life, but oftentimes those of us in the church are in need of a healing ourselves, so that we can bring healing to others.
Because of negative experiences, many people are down on “the Church.” But we need to make a distinction between the actions of insensitive people and what Jesus calls His Church. As he said, “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18, KJV. The word translated church here means “called out assembly.” Jesus’ church consists of all those who believe in Him throughout the world. They are called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. They are a people called of God to be different and to gather together in His name.
The institutional church, on the other hand, is a structure built by man. It is an organization. It may serve God’s purposes or it may not…but it is not necessarly the true Church. The true Church is the people. The organization is something else. What man has done in the name of religion has turned many people against Jesus and his Church. But you see, the Church (as God sees it) is a good thing. It was instituted by the Lord Jesus, and it will prevail. Regardless of what we see with our natural eyes, or what our emotions say to us, the Church of Jesus will prevail over the devil and forces of darkness. So, thank God for Jesus’ church. As He conceives it and perceives it, the Church is an instrument of His deliverance, not a source of hurt.
Problems come into the church setting because of man, not because of God. It may be because of religious dogma, or improper motives, deception, or lust, but these are fleshly things. They do not issue forth from the Spirit of God. This is why we need purity in the Church, and an operation of the love of God, in order to bring healing and not hurt by our actions and words.