A new buzz word in pop psychology is “vulnerable.” There is some good advice out there, and this idea can be good for us.
If I looked at you and said “loser!” I would be rude, and you would take that as an insult. We learned that in elementary school.
I just called you a loser, and you can say the same to me. If we are not losers, we are failures. Every Christian should know the words in the Bible “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) That is the bedrock of our Christian faith. Jesus made it right, after we made it wrong.
A few days ago, I had a meeting with an old friend. We talked about business and we also had time to catch up on our personal stories, like old friends. This man is a Christian, my brother in Christ, and he described himself as a pariah. I don’t think he goes to a church now.
My friend’s problem is that he is now divorced from his wife. I didn’t ask for details, but he is not living an obviously immoral life-style now. I know him to be hard-working and loyal, and sincere. Something happened in his marriage, and it wasn’t good, and now he is a pariah and there is no way back. Another word for pariah is loser.
He told me that the marriage had been very bad for years and then it ended. Now, years later, I don’t think his ex-wife is treated like a pariah among Christians, but he is. My friend told me about the stress he went through when his life fell apart and how it damaged his health, and how he feels better now.
I am not encouraging divorce here, but the Bible tells us in plain words “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
I don’t know my friend’s faults or sins, but I do know that there is not much interest in restoring him. And I am sure his ex-wife has some faults also, they are co-authors of that disaster. If you are wondering, he can come to church with me anytime, but I am not part of his circle of friends and family and I live far away. I also believe that the hard work of forgiving and restoring should be done near the location of the offense.
This failure was close to me and it was painful to see. The failure that made me sad was the label “loser” instead of “brother” that Christians were happy to put on my friend. That is one way to say ‘God forgives my sins but not yours.’
I was raised in a family that went to church three times a week, and my generation in the church was mostly ‘God’s grandchildren’ people who were Christians because they were raised in the culture. Some made sincere personal decisions to follow Jesus, including me, but that was not required. Looking good and not getting caught was important. Many of my friends lost interest in church and Christian things when they grew up and started their adult lives. There is no need to be “born again” if you are happy with the results from the first birth.
I know my divorced friend is a sincere believer, but now he is a pariah among cultural Christians. I also know that we should try to restore our brothers and sisters, who aren’t good enough for us anymore. We could fill several large churches with those people and those would be great churches. And I know we should all be more vulnerable.
A true Christian is a loser, forgiven and restored. That is our gritty reality, and we were never called to live like plastic Barbie dolls in a television commercial.
For my friend, and anyone else like him, I hope that you can find your way to peace with God, and maybe peace with those of us who prefer to judge.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6: 14 and 15)
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103: 10 to 14)