BY RJ GRUNEWALD
Bloody, bruised, and burnt out—our friends, family members, and coworkers are walking out of churches, giving up on God’s family, and at the same time giving up on the message that the Church has been entrusted with. This is the same old story that we’ve been hearing Christians sound alarms over for decades. But what do we do? And what words of comfort might we share for the people we love who’ve been victims of an abusive, graceless system?
Rod Rosenbladt described the kind of people that many of us have met (and many of us are recovering from):
Many of us have met and talked with the sad alumni of Christianity. And many of us have also met and talked with some of the mad alumni of Christianity. The venue may vary, but most of us know or have met men and women who tell us that Christianity was a part of their life in years past, but that they no longer consciously identify with Jesus Christ in His claim to be God and Savior.
How many people are becoming alumni of Christianity because they can never measure up to the demands of Christianity? How often are people walking out on the Church because they aren’t good enough to be a part of one? The problem for those leaving the Church is that when they were beaten up and broken by their sin, many of them weren’t given help; they were kicked while they were down. Instead of the grace that heals the wounds, every ounce of life was taken from them.
C.F.W. Walther, the great Law and Gospel theologian, said, “As soon as the Law has done its crushing work, the Gospel is to be instantly preached or said to such a man or woman.”
A Word for Our Friends Who’ve Been Left to Die, Bloodied and Bruised
Jesus tells a story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who falls into the hands of robbers. Luke records, “They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). Some robber jumps him as he’s traveling and he’s left in a pool of his own blood, waiting for someone to help.
A priest enters the scene and he walks right by.
A Levite does the same, leaving the bruised and bloodied man to die.
For the bloodied and bruised who’ve given up on the Church; you know what it’s like to be on the side of the road. You’ve felt the pain of watching your religious leaders ignore your pain for the sake of their own holiness. When we’ve been beaten by a legalism that demands perfection and we’ve been bruised by our own failures and inadequacies, the religious leaders have left us for dead on the side of the road.
But in comes a Samaritan.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ (Luke 10:33-36)
Jesus is the Good Samaritan.
@@Jesus rescues you from the bloodied mess that you’ve been left in.@@ If you’ve been beaten and bruised by the Law, and religious leaders have left you for dead, know that Jesus cleans up your wounds.
Jesus doesn’t avoid the stench of your near-death, unclean sins that put you on the side of the road. Jesus ignores that you don’t belong in the company of his holiness. Instead, Jesus gets covered in your own blood as He bandages your wounds. The Psalmist (Psalm 147:3) writes that he “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
You may have given up on the Church, but Jesus, and therefore His Church hasn’t given up on you. In the midst of the hurt, pain, and heartache, may you hear from God’s people and therefore from Jesus himself: “Your sins are forgiven.”
A Word to People Just Like Me
I haven’t been beaten up by a Church. I’ve been a part of a Church that preaches God’s two words (Law and Gospel) my entire life. But as a Christian who is trying to figure out how to share these two words with people, the story of the Good Samaritan cuts me to the heart.
Because how often do I miss an opportunity to share grace to somebody broken by their own sin? How often do I miss the opportunity for a simple conversation that might open doors into the hurts, pains, and suffering of a person’s life? How often have we failed to discern whether somebody needed to hear the condemnation of the law or the hope of the Gospel?
How many people have I left for dead because of my own religious agendas?
This story holds up the mirror to my own life and I find myself starting out as the religious leader who ignored the hurting and as the Law does its work, I find myself broken on the side of the road hoping somebody will rescue me because of my own failure to rescue. And in the midst of my own failure, I too am reminded that the one who was beaten, battered, and bruised comes with grace even for people like me.
RJ Grunewald is a Vicar at Faith Lutheran Church in Troy, Michigan, serving in the student ministry and as a part of the preaching team. He is also attending Concordia Seminary in St. Louis through their distance education program. RJ is a theology nerd who loves books and sermons by dead guys. But as a writer and a preacher, he passionately believes that theology isn’t just meant for the academics and dead guys but it is for everyday life. He has a free, grace-filled book on addiction that you can download today, Addiction: Leaving the Vomit Behind. RJ has been married to his wife Jessica since 2007 and they have 2 kids, Elijah and Emaline.