When Church Hurts: Forgiving the People Who Have Hurt Me the Most

Earlier I shared a post in a series about how I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  One of those posts dealt briefly with a series of events that have marked my life beyond all others.  I shared about how my father had a stroke and was subsequently asked for his resignation as pastor.  This series of events occurred when I was 14 years old and still impact me to this day.

My initial response was rebellion and hatred.  For years I was bitter and clung to a hatred of the church in general and this church in particular.  It was a poison in my soul.  It wasn’t until years later that I would look back at this series of events and say with Joseph, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20). And with the Apostle Paul, “For we Know that He (God) works all things together for our good” (Romans 8:28).

The transition took place when I found a way to forgive this church and trust God to remove the bitterness from my heart.  In theological circles they debate this matter of forgiveness like its optional.  Some say that we have a right to hold on to unforgiveness until someone repents of their sin against us.  This is a position that I used to justify my greedy and unforgiving heart.

Then it happened.  I was confronted with the simple text of scripture.  Matthew 6:14-15 tell us that if we don’t forgive others as God has forgiven us, we won’t be forgiven. Some debate that God doesn’t forgive us until we repent of sin, but they miss the bigger picture.  My repentance doesn’t merit God’s forgiveness.  God’s forgiveness was purchased for me through Jesus Christ who died on the cross for my sin. God the offended, made the peace-offering.  As the offender all I had to do was receive the terms of forgiveness. I needed to agree with God that I was a sinner, turn from my sin and follow Jesus (repentance).

So now, if I was to forgive others as I have been forgiven I needed to be the one who would make the peace-offering.  That is what God did for me.  That is what the king did for the servant at the beginning of the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 when he realized the servant couldn’t pay.  He assumed the debt.  That is what the servant is guilty of not doing with his fellow servant.

So one day I made my way back to the church where it all happened. I sat in the back wondering how one goes about forgiving a church and wrestling with what to do. Then they did something peculiar.  They opened the door for the people in the congregation to share what the church had meant to them. I was resistant.  I had a burning inside that I had to get up and share.  Finally it seemed like they were closing the door for people to share and I awkwardly sprang to my feet and began the slow walk to the front.

By now the eyes of the congregation were on me.  They knew who I was.  I imagine they were all wondering at what I was about to say.  Some gave me an ice-cold glare.  Others had a sympathetic smile.  Still others looked on with a puzzled look on their face.  And I shared, “This church hurt me.  Several years ago, you hurt my father and you hurt my family.  You have left wounds on me that cut deep.  I carry scars and nightmares to this day because of what happened here.  But today I have come not to curse you, but to bless you.  I forgive you! I forgive you all for everything!

At this point tears were gushing from my eyes and knowing we were at the end of the service, I asked to close in prayer.  I put my hands on their pastor and began to offer a prayer for blessing upon him, his family, and the ministry of the church.

Later that night I found out from the pastor and other that the church had begun a process of repenting of their past sins.  I was blessed to have the pastor pray and offer a blessing over me.  Today I pray for that church on a regular basis asking God to move in them.

Given my past it is somewhat ironic that God would call me into the ministry.  Since then I have been blessed to serve with two really great congregations (one for over ten years) and alongside two great pastors.

  • When Church People do Bad Things
  • 3 Things you should know before you Judge your Friends
  • Forgiveness
  • My Story: A Trial that Proves a Faulty Faith (part 2)
  • 7 Steps of a Unified Group
  • 6 thoughts on “When Church Hurts: Forgiving the People Who Have Hurt Me the Most

    1. Chip Weaver

      That is awesome man, I am so glad that you are that strong of a person! I hope your whole family has the same strength! I wish I did! I still cannot go there, even after you pointed out the way GOD wants us to feel. I miss you guys! Your whole family made me want to be a better person through Jesus Christ! Heck buddy you are doing it right now!LoL! Promise me that if you ever come back up this way, that you will hit me up so we can meet up and grab a meal or maybe just talk over a cup of coffee! Thank you Jonathan, I feel like I have had alot lifted off of my back that I carried around for years!


    2. pastorjonathan1

      that woud be great. I will probably be up that way later this summer. I would enjoy a cup of coffee and a conversation. It woud be great to catch up.


    3. KJ

      I have seen the ugly results of those who condition their forgiveness of others upon their perception of repentance. It’s a fearful place to stand in light of Matthew 6. God and the gospel call us to imitate our Father who is gracious and kind to “evil and ungrateful men” – Luke 6:35. Thanks for sharing.



    4. I am glad you are sharing this with us because my family was recently hurt by a church. Actually one of us was hurt by a previous church already. Even to this day, some members from that church still give the “evil” eye. However God is the God of all things and he restores our peace. We can not get it from a church building, we get it from Him. We get the healing and understadning from the Lord and he has placed us in the midst of wonderful spirtiual friends who don’t mind fellowshipping with us.

      I am happy you have forgiven the church. We are called to be like Christ and thats a wonderful component—forgiveness.


    5. James Mattson

      It’s such amazing love from Jesus,when He sets us free!Jesus dealt with me about a past Pastor and as years went on harsh feelings ate me up,it was like a cancer growing.This Cancer tore me up inside until I laid down and gave it to Jesus,It’s Amazing Grace and Love from Jesus that can speak to a heart and heals our broken spirit and changes forever how we look at others as we look at them through the eyes of Jesus’s Love!


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