Emily and the Gospel of Reconciliation

It’s no secret I have schizophrenia.

I’m not shy about talking about it.

Somehow, I think the more I talk about it, the less stigma there is.

What I don’t talk about very often is getting kicked out of a church.

You see, in my psychosis, I had this belief that I was going to marry this single pastor at the church.

I should point out that at my worst, I was an obsessive emailer. I didn’t stalk him, threaten him, buy a weapon or become at all violent. In fact, I was far more scared of my delusions than he had any reason to be afraid of me.

The reality with schizophrenia is that it doesn’t change your personality. People think it does but it actually doesn’t. It just amplifies what’s already there. Basically, it means that if someone isn’t a violent person when they’re well, schizophrenia isn’t going to make them violent.

I was kicked out of the church after I emailed his girlfriend. I had crossed a line. I was sinful, disobedient, decisive.

It couldn’t possibly have been anything else. Like, I don’t know, a mental illness?

To make a long story short, I attempted suicide, was hospitalized, got diagnosed and made the long journey to getting better.

***

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the Gospel is the doctrine of reconciliation. Because, when you simply boil it down, dying on the cross was about reconciliation. Some people argue that redemption is the core but the reality is that there can be no redemption without first reconciling to God.

I fight for reconciliation more than anyone else I know.

***

So we set out to reconcile with the church. I first approached them on my own .

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. – Matthew 18:15

It didn’t work. So I asked one of my pastors for help.

But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ – Matthew 18:16

Once again, it didn’t work. So for almost a year, I let it go. Until I read this.

If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

***

I’m an avid church nerd. I read up on different church cultures and structures. In college, I was fascinated by Mars Hill. How did the multi-congregational church work? I added it to the list, to go and visit every Mars Hill Church.

I obviously never got the chance. When the church fell apart, I read stories and accounts of the people who went there. I was blown away by how many people had been kicked out of the church. Now, I understand there might be a reason to ask someone to leave but the instance should be rare.

What I found equally interesting was that many of these people were welcomed back into the newly formed churches after the congregations began to rebuild themselves. Something about abuse of power.

***

So I made the scary decision to go before the church elders. It makes me want to throw up. On the one hand, I’ve already forgiven these pastors. I have.

But there’s a bigger problem here. You have a church that has sinned big time and has continued to sin by refusing to reconcile.

I’m about to start a business helping churches become and stay spiritually healthy. Because it means something to me for churches to do well. When I see a church spiraling in sin, I can’t just sit and do nothing.

Because I love these men. From the bottom of my heart, I do. These are my brothers. How could I watch them behave like this and do nothing?

For the LORD disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. – Hebrews 12:6

I’m afraid. I play a tough game but the reality is I’m scared. But God is bigger than I am.

If any of the pastors read this, know I’m praying for you.

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