Writer Hope Bonarcher shares her experience of abuse in the Church and how she turns to Jesus for her faith rather than the example of flawed people.
It seems like every week there is new light shed on another scandal lurking in the church shadows. Recently scrolling through comments on social media regarding the latest accusations of impropriety against a prominent UK leader, I was reminded how cunningly the enemy can use church abuse as a trigger.
There were threads peppered with commenters decrying their own or loved ones’ awful experiences. Immediately, I reacted in defense. They’re throwing the baby out with the bath water! There are bad people everywhere, in every religion and outside of religion altogether. Is it fair the Church should so often be the scapegoat?
That’s when I remembered. Since coming to Christ, God has blessed and transformed my life so drastically, it’s easy to forget the stony, stubborn heart I bared at the cross. Upon meeting my husband I boldly exclaimed: “ will NEVER go to church!” In only a matter of weeks he would lead me to the Lord.
The number one reason I avoided church was abuse I’d experienced at the hands of Christians.
The number one reason I avoided church was abuse I’d experienced at the hands of Christians. A close family member I associated with church gravely wronged me as a child and from that season forth I saw Christians as hypocrites. It is only in hindsight I realise that person probably wasn’t a believer. At the time, it didn’t matter. The pain I’d experienced at his hand was a gaping gulf holding the resentment of stolen innocence and a deep hearted offense toward Christians. I realize now my past scorn for the church was just as brazen as that of the commenters I read today.
So, what changed? Surviving sexual abuse awakened the deep brokenness within, driving me ultimately to the cross. Jesus suffered reprehensible abuse by his enemies, as well as rejection, desertion and betrayal by his own chosen ones. It is he who best understands our sufferings, even at the hands of those we should be able to trust.
Read more on supporting women through abuse
In Isaiah 53 alone, Jesus is referred to as a man of sorrows, despised and rejected, acquainted with deepest grief; oppressed, treated harshly and unjustly condemned. He is fully man, but also fully God. God, who never changes or casts a shifting shadow, God who cannot lie, God who is always good, God who heals, sees and truly walked among us. While every human has the potential to sin against us, only Jesus, who was in all ways tempted but never sinned, never could. His deity makes his arms outstretched upon the cross the safest place to turn as a human who’s been spitefully used.
The Church is made up of broken people. Jesus was broken FOR people.
We can mistakenly let the fallen nature of humanity taint our understanding of Jesus. The Church is made up of broken people. Jesus was broken FOR people. Knowing all this of His nature, let us securely find our salvation in Christ alone, not the church. He’s the only One who fully knows our hearts, the aching included… Neither wild horses nor all the hypocritical Christians in the world could keep me from trusting Jesus and so becoming a member of His church. As His body, we can allow the wounds which lead us to Him remind us to be living stones pointing the lost to Jesus rather than stumbling blocks away from Him.