What to do When People are Disappointing and the Church Lets You Down

The reason there are no perfect churches is that there are no perfect people.

If we have a right view of the church and its people we aren’t going to fall into the silly trap of leaving every time we are disappointed. If we recognise that the church is full of sinners we won’t enter into a covenant relationship with its people with our eyes closed. In fact, we won’t be entering into that covenant relationship on the false pretext that the church is there to serve me, meet my needs and generally fulfil my whims and desires.

 

People are so disappointing, aren’t they? One doesn’t have to be around church very long to discover that people let you down. The reason there are no perfect churches is that there are no perfect people. Add a sinner to a room full of sinners and it is hardly surprising that we encounter sin. Welcome yet another failure into a church full of failures and it is little wonder that people will let you down. Given that the church is the sum of its people, it should be no surprise that the church itself will periodically disappoint us too.

Of course, if we have a right view of the church and its people we aren’t going to fall into the silly trap of leaving every time we are disappointed. If we recognise that the church is full of sinners we won’t enter into a covenant relationship with its people with our eyes closed. In fact, we won’t be entering into that covenant relationship on the false pretext that the church is there to serve me, meet my needs and generally fulfil my whims and desires.

We enter into a covenant relationship with the church on the same terms as our marriage; a solemn pledge to one another based on unconditional love rather than selfish demands to have our needs met. We will serve the church even when we don’t feel it is serving us as we might hope because we are committed to loving it even when, as far as we see it, it is not all that lovely. Just as there is no such thing as a perfect husband or wife, but two people committed to helping one another grow, so there are no perfect churches, just people committed to helping one another grow in Christ.

That is how Christ views the church. He sees it as beautiful and lovely because he sees what he will make us. He sees beyond the muck and the mess and commits to loving us, and helping us grow, even when we are oh so disappointing. The church is called to mirror that kind of love. We are to commit to the good of other members, to love and serve them – even when it feels as though that is not reciprocated – because that is what Christ has done for us.

That is all very well and good, but high ideals are always much easier in theory than practice. We may all happily assent to loving the church even when it lets us down, but how does that work in practice? How should we respond when people inevitably disappoint us in the church?

Pray

There are three things we can pray when we feel the church has let us down. First, we can ask the Lord to show us if we are being reasonable. So often we presume we are in the right without considering that we might be expecting something unrealistic from others. Second, if we are convinced we have been wronged, we can pray that the Lord would grant us a forgiving attitude – the Spirit can work in our hearts to help us forgive others. Third, we can pray for those who have wronged us. We may pray that the Lord would show them their sin (if, indeed, they have sinned at all) and we can pray for their good. It is very hard to hate someone when you are regularly praying for the Lord to bless them.

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