There are times in life when struggle seems to be the norm. Jesus himself taught his disciples that in this world you will have hardships. He also talked openly about the difficulties his followers would face. We would hope that during times like these we can retreat into the presence of God, as well as find support, comfort and good advice from the Church. The former is true: we can always retreat into the place of prayer where God is always available, always listening and always interested. But what if the difficulties you face are found in the Church? What if members of the very community that should gather around those who are hurting are actually taking on the role of the oppressor?
This can be one of the hardest things for a follower of Jesus to face: others who follow him acting in ways that do not honour him. Often these people will look and act similarly to Jesus, but they have lost sight of Jesus and how he treated others. They have lost sight of the core teaching of Jesus to love your neighbour as yourself. They have distanced themselves from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and will be failing to portray the fruit of the Spirit. despite these things they will present a form of religion that is likely to look authentic on the surface.
Such people are masters at manipulation and will highlight your errors to mask their own.
Such people will undermine your confidence at every turn.
Such people will put you down as they seek to remind you to stay in your place
What can you do to safeguard yourself from people like this?
Make sure you walk closely with Jesus yourself – do not be solely dependent upon your Church to grow your faith. It is important to grow in a faith community, but it is essential that you are personally connected with Jesus in order to see error and to grow strong in your faith
Have friendships outside your faith community – do not close yourself off from people outside the church. If your church expects you to do this you need to leave and find a healthier spiritual home. There are many great churches out there
Seek spiritual input from a variety of people and places. Don’t be afraid to occasionally visit other Churches, or to spend time with Christians from other theological persuasions – God will use these to challenge your thoughts and to grow your faith
Be strong in God and follow the convictions of your heart – sometimes he is just telling you to get out. If you think this is the case find some spiritual people outside your context to pray and talk with – I cannot tell you how important this is! I personally share my life joys and struggles with a handful of Godly people who help me to process life in a positive, accountable and spiritually practical manner
Get out! Do not stay in a manipulative faith context with the hope that it will improve – most times it does not!
The life that Jesus promised was not an easy life, but the Church that he builds is a Church that supports, not that oppresses. May your faith be grown strong as you lean on Jesus.