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An offensive remark may contain undue suspicion, contempt or condemnation. Often judgmental word receives additional power from the fact that God's authority is drawn to strengthen it. Often the wounding word hurts the most, if it applies to you as a person, your looks, your life failures (eg, broken marriage) or your falls in the past. Intentional hurting is often focused deliberately on a sore spot.
Sometimes it is a question of authority or a dispute, if the church leaders or other authoritative people do not put up that you have a different opinion on matters. Opinion may be a doctrinal dispute, or whatever different valuation.
Sometimes you may think that your volunteer work is not valued, it is even opposed. Praise will not be given. Your little contributions you tweak of your income, go to the collection box ending up somewhere in the black hole. If you sometimes try to earmark your money for a destination, you will find that they disappeared into thin air - were used for something more urgent. Again someone was more right than you. The money was good enough, but you did not qualify.
You have a confused feeling when you realize that you have come in the middle of such pious people, who always repeat, "I am an unworthy servant." You wonder how to get access to the same category of unworthy ones, but accepted.
You have been praying for the church and sacrificed your time for common things, praying privately at home. When you started to get answers to prayer, you did not yet have time to express your joy when someone already rushed to receive all glory for oneself. You felt like the answer was now entirely due to someone else's efforts. The big shots of the church immediately lifted this person on a pedestal.
You perhaps ended up to be a victim of religion already during a period of visitation when you first heard the awakening call. When you cautiously and hesitantly entered the church, you experienced being an object of an investigative gaze, coming out in the middle of mistrust. You dawning faith was not supported, but soon you were weeded as ryegrass, rooted out like a weed in the garden, even though Jesus expressly forbade such things (Math.13:29). Perhaps you ended up to be mistreated by a stupid gardener's nails, who caused budding roses blossom by rough treatment, even if they needed nothing but the sun of grace. Perhaps you died before you were born, because someone thought to be "a midwife by the grace of God" but was nothing but an abortionist or an inept person to cause premature births, miscarriages and death. Now you do not want to hear a word of God, or even enter any church.
Maybe you were born, maybe you got a breast, you were received in a church, but your walk was staggering and you failed at times. Oh, now, a number of pharisees gathered around you to stone you. They pecked at you like vultures eat a corpse. So you totally withdrew and you decided to stay away from any believers. Experiences you have of them are so frightening and cause you such terror, that you cannot believe in anything that speaks of a merciful God. If someone invites you to follow Christ, you will see just an angry flock of judgmental people, and you turn off immediately.
The position of a victim: There is Christian moral and there are biblical standards by which things can be measured. There is always the word of God, to use as a mirror. However, quite often there is a question of interpretation or different valuations. Sometimes misunderstandings. Sometimes pure authoritative dispute. Someone may take their own subjective opinion as an objective truth. The truth in a human hand can become an axe.
You, as a victim of religion, are like a zombie bearing an invisible axe on your head. Anyone does not really understand your severe pain, because they do not see the axe in your head.
People explain to you, that you have really been wronged, but now you have to forgive everything and just continue your life. Otherwise there is a danger that you will become bitter and so you will become even worse as a human being.
Victimization hook: Unfortunately, people's abilities to solve these problems as someone becomes a victim of religion, are primitive. The victim, who is in the first place some sort of a power game loser, has to be pawned to a new kind of game, the rules of which he or she has no control on. From the victim's point of view, the wrongdoer should repent and ask for forgiveness and change one's behavior, but it is not the rule of the game. What the game seems to prove is: the stronger will win. The target is to leave the buck in the victim's hand. The church is always stronger than an individual. At least a denomination is stronger than any individual victim. The Church will never regret anything, because the church represents God. The victim of religion is to repent. He or she should ask forgiveness from the church. As the conflict has arisen, even the innocence of yours cannot be forgiven without begging. So there you stand, incapable of turning anywhere - a buck in hand.
Victims of religion, who cannot stay in the church where they are not understood, will be further blamed because they have left the church. A victim is expected - quite inconceivably - that one feels comfortable in a church, where he or she has been mistreated. The church is always narcissistic in nature and the basic argument is, by definition, "the church cannot do anything wrong." A pastor, who reflects the values of the church, cannot comprehend that such a good man as he is could be rightly criticized. If there is some criticism, it is because the reviewer is evil. That person must have a demon, this Pharisee thinks.
If the victim of religion then gets off the church, may the religious elite, which have been offended, begin to denigrate the game loser, just in case. So he or she gets the blame, because is a rebel, because not really understands sound doctrine, does not respect authority, despises the church of God, and therefore, is in love with the world, is doing wrong, and is in every respect an unworthy person. The church may have a great need to explain why the rift was born, and shift the blame on the victim. It is always necessary to save the church's reputation, the victim's reputation is in no way of so high a value. The reputation of the church must be protected, because the church represents the Christian faith, and you have to be sacrificed on behalf of the Christian faith, and to give up your reputation.
The victim is hardly allowed to show any compassion toward oneself, but he or she must repent on "wallowing in self-pity." Embarrassed, the victim must experience community isolation and public desecration. Bullying in all its caveman's evilness enters the picture; who would believe - in the church! As the victim has fled from there, public staining of one's reputation will continue outside the Church.
Unfortunately, there are wounds of this kind. The church, which should represent the Atonement, Christ's love, God's grace and mercy, fails completely and gives birth to such victims of religion, to these endlessly guilty, to these poor people bearing an axe in their head. Even God seems to be able to do nothing with this stupidity and hardness.
The viewpoint of hope: What does say the word of God:
What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: “So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.” (Rom.3:3-4 NIV)
I, who also feel myself like a victim of religion, want to say to you, who have experienced painful things in your life and thus have been thrown into the internal struggles and trials of faith: God cannot be hidden behind a man's back. The glory of Christ cannot be darkened by any man. No-one will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Rom.8:39 NIV).
After all, Christ is so much above all the pastors, above each damning brother, so much greater than any local church, so much more authoritative than any denomination, so much more truthful than any high priest, so much more loving, merciful and gentle than any human being that you are to be in perfectly good cheer: Jesus loves you. He will accept you, as innocent as well as defective.
He has paid the full prize for you. No one can negate the redemption price he has paid, and say that it lacks something. If you are a victim of religion or don't, you are purchased, atoned and called to salvation. You have been chosen to live in union with God because of Christ's perfect love. Specifically to every victim of religion Christ wants to say:
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life (Is.43:4-5 NIV).
'But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.’ (Jer.30:17 NIV)
When it comes to your salary, hear what God's word says: Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. (Math.10:41-42 NIV).
You will never be deprived of your salary - God pays. If the Lord himself pays your salary, you will receive much more abundant reward than you would get from the people of God. He pays it in the heavenly currency, the currency is called "grace." So give thanks, your salary awaits on your account.
When it comes to the bullying, we are to rely on Christ: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin (Hebr.4:15 NIV). Following Him means also carrying the cross, and that way you have a chance to get closer to Christ than any bully: I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death... (Phil.3:10 NIV). Remember that Christ died as a victim of religion for you.
Let's pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we bring the victims of religion before your throne. We ask for your mercy, your caring love, your consolation for all who has been mistreated by other Christians in the middle of your church. Give encouragement to every ill-treated person to live by faith and strengthen their faith in God, in God's grace and goodness. Let Christ's love surround them, and let the Good Shepherd nurture them and heal their wounds. Give your mercy, that they may keep their living faith in God and stay strong in tribulations. Thank you, Lord, that you do these, when we ask for your mercy to be revealed for all the victims of religion, in Jesus' name. Amen.
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