A couple of months ago, I started to have some pains in weird places in my body so I went to the doctor. He did not know what was wrong and sent me home. A couple of weeks went by and the pains got worst and they moved to my back so I went back to the doctor. At that time he sent me to physical therapy to find out what was the problem. When I got there the physical therapist did test to see what was wrong. She asked me questions about my life style and what my job is. I told her that I was a pastor and that Dale and I are looking for a church. I also told her we were helping out at little church.
Then she asked me when the pain was at its worst. I told her when we are at church. If I am not at church I can stand up and walk the pain off. She asked me why I just didn’t stop going to church? The physical therapist explained that this is a normal thing some women when they have the operation I had two years ago. She showed me some exercises I could do to strengthen my back. Dale came with me on the second visit because I asked him to come along. We do not get to spend much time together and I thought it would be cool for him to see what I do there. While we were in the middle of stretching, she started to ask about the pain and once again she asked me what event during the week caused the most pain. Again I replied while we are attending church.
At that point she started relating experience about when she was younger. My therapist had attended church with her family when she was younger. She told us how she was there every time the doors were open. (We can relate to that.) For her, church was not a good experience. She talked about how people at church can be so judgmental and hateful. At this point in her life, she really has no interest in church. I would consider her one of the dechurched.
Dale and I did not say anything we just listened. When she was done talking about church, she started telling about her family. At that moment I was glad we did not say anything because a wall was breaking down. Once again all we did was listened. As Dale and I walked out of therapy our hearts were broken. In our twenty years of ministry we have heard many stories like this from others we have met. My therapists story is a story that has happened over and over.
This has even happened in our own lives. We have been hurt by churches (in reality, by a very few individuals in churches) in the past. However, I think the key for us is that we were able to look past the judgmental people and remember what God is really like and the purpose of His church.
We have spent a lot of time thinking about this woman’s story and it has broken our hearts because of the number of times we have run into this. The next time I had an appointment, the therapist told me that when she heard that I was a pastor she was not going to like me because every pastor she knew was mean and hateful. This did not surprise me – I have heard that from other people. She also told me that many of the Christians she had as patients were rude and uncaring. She was surprised that a pastor and a Christian could be so cute and adorable. Then she asked me if it was ok if she called me cute and adorable. I told her that I had been called that before by a couple of soldiers. She thanked me for showing her how loving and caring a Christian can be. By the way during this time there were other people coming in to talk to her because one of her older patients came in an hour and half early for his appointment. One of the other therapists was going to take him and wanted to know what was going on. I know this is going to sound strange but if God can use a pain in my back to minister to someone, I am ok with it.
As we wrap up this post, let us encourage you to imitate Christ.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT)
We have been called to be his children – we have been called to imitate Jesus – to be like Jesus in everything we do. I find it interesting as we look at Jesus. Those whom we expect that Jesus would judge harshest are often dealt the most compassion. Then there are the religious folks – Jesus often reserves his harshest words for those who outwardly are very religious, but inwardly have the same nature as those they are judging.
So where are you today? Are you imitating Jesus? My prayer is that you are. There are people whom God created that desperately need the love of Jesus and perhaps you are the Jesus that they need today.