In Forgiving the Church: My 4-year Journey of Loving the Church
by Beiah Tudio
More than any person on earth, I have a particular love for my twin sister. We literally grew up together– from the beginning when we were still “eggs,” to right now as we struggle to find our passions and path in this world. I’m the brave, hot headed one, while my twin sister is a sweet, soft-tempered woman who easily cries when I am attacked by extreme sarcasm and guilt trips. I love her. I consider her my best friend in the whole wide world.
So when she was the subject of a disciplinary action that led me to believe that it was the offense of the church, my world as a church-believer crumbled. We grew up in church and its influence. I had probably read the whole kid’s bible as I skimmed it every day. I scribbled artwork at Sunday school and had my first few crushes while transitioning to the youth ministry. I viewed my twin sister as a good person through and through. When she was disciplined unjustifiably (this being my point of view entirely), I started disbelieving the idea of Church– so much so that I also stopped playing the guitar (we were both part of the worship team).
For 4 years, I hopped churches. I would sit in a service and try to justify what I believed was a good church. Their music should be like this, their design should be so-and-so, their pastor doesn’t really convince me… and every complaint that I believed one could make, I made about the Church. I would go to church on Sundays on “robot mode.” I only did what satisfied me and would go home still feeling empty; still trying to fill a void on my own. I was unforgiving when a certain church I visited would do something not to my liking, and then I would move to a different church. “Why can’t people change?” was always my question. I blamed the people inside the church for it not being perfect. I would complain to God, asking Him why He permitted such things to happen in His house.
If He was a perfect God, and if He was the first Person who cared about me, then why couldn’t His Church be what I wanted it to be? I was entirely selfish. I was pushing my own mold of Church to the churches that I was visiting. I always thought I knew better; that I could understand God better because the Church was the one who offended me. She was the one who sinned against me, and I didn’t want to forgive Her.
I never knew that this was the thing that made me cry each night. I was asking God what was wrong; why I was crying again for no reason.
I felt a hole in my heart despite being secure of God’s love for me. I never realized this hole to be caused by pride in my unforgiveness toward the Church. God wanted me to get back with Her; to have a mended relationship with the Church.
A church in Tacloban, my job as a content administrator for the One Voice website, and a friend’s wedding were used by God to change my heart. And boy was it a process.
Forgiveness is a tricky process. Asking for forgiveness is one thing. Forgiving is another. And of the two, I find forgiving a lot harder to do.
We might believe that we have forgiven, but when faced with the same person or the same offence, we find ourselves still getting angry, still asking God why this person does this, or why this offence still exists. Forgiveness is not merely saying, “I forgive you” or “I accept your apology.” Forgiveness is a complete change of heart and a testimony of selflessness.
When I realized that the content for the website and social media of One Voice was about forgiveness, I started asking the Lord what He wanted me to forgive. He wanted me to forgive the Church.
I began to ask for the desire to forgive. Since I am a stubborn, rationalizing kind of person, I had to have degrees in wanting this desire. (My personality isn’t really fast on changes. I adjust very gradually on the important things, like learning how to budget, or in respecting the space or customs of adults. In this case, it was in learning how to forgive.)
Since I justified every bit of offence the church did to me, God had to untangle every offence and justify these things. It was His way for me to understand that whatever happened wasn’t meant for me to give up on the Church. It was meant for me to support the Church more. He didn’t want me to escape from the brokenness—He wanted me to become someone who could stand in the gap, or someone who could stand in the brokenness, identify with it, and represent His forgiveness. I didn’t realize till then that I, too, was a broken person because of my unforgiving heart.
Could I forgive? Jesus said that whatever He could do, we could do, too, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Eventually, God did provide the desire to forgive. After that, I specifically asked that He give me the desire to forgive the specific church that “offended” me. Then finally, I was able to forgive the Church entirely.
The Church was built to glorify God. A lot of people say that Church is a hospital where people can heal and encourage others. I say that the Church was built to understand how God is constantly building a society, a Kingdom of people who are wholly singular in their pursuit of Him. We are meant to help each other, build each other up, share our learnings, and walk together towards Him. God’s Church is a group of people who are aware of their brokenness, and yet built up in faith, trust, grace, and the mercy of Jesus.
How can we love and forgive if we cannot love and forgive the very thing that is most important to Jesus? His Church is His bride, His one true love. And it consists of broken people like us.
True, there is no perfect church, nor will there be a group of people who will satisfy your standards of belief. But Jesus believes in Her more than anything. I think it’s only logical that whatever my passion is, and Jesus is my passion, then I will believe and love everything that He believes and loves. And that is basically the Church.
To the Church, I’m sorry.
I’m slowly adjusting to Church again– the “no free weekends” because of this Church thing, but I feel sweeter and more loved right now as I discover Christ through the Church.
Ephesians 5:25b-27 (NLT): “He gave up His life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s Word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.”