Sunday, March 9, 2014

Collateral damage 3

Whenever people are in a community of trust, whether it is a family, a neighborhood, a city, a country—or a church—sin and the efforts taken in its aftermath can cause collateral damage.

This is true whether the sin is covered up, explained away, ignored, or dealt with, either competently or incompetently. Once the sin has occurred, whatever is done or not done about it will cause collateral damage.

In the church context, there might be a fight among the staff. Or the pastor does something very wrong. Or someone in the congregation becomes a problem and acts badly. Or a drama unfolds between established and newer members. Or a faction within the congregation tries to gather and hold power. Because the church is community, in addition to those directly battling, there's a whole congregation of individuals who will be collateral damage. It's a sliding scale, of course. Some people will be mildly affected. Others will be more severely affected. But everyone will sustain some level of damage.

Some will leave and find another place to worship. Others become disillusioned with the very idea of church. People seeking Christ give up, seeing nothing in the church that is different from everyday life. They draw the conclusion that Christians are hypocrites, or that their religion does not help people change their lives or act differently. There are many different outcomes; not many of them are good ones.

In the church, when we fight with each other, when we partake in sin, we hurt not only ourselves and those with whom we have an issue. In church, private battles become public battles. People with no stake in the immediate situation get drawn in, as mediators, as decision makers, as supporters/detractors, or as spectators. Our battles are not just about us, as much as we may think they are. Our battles go viral, and the unintended consequences can have eternal repercussions.

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