Forgive the Church????


Here is a quote that Pete posted for all of us who have been hurt by the church from Henry Nouwen:

“When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,” we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.

The challenge is to forgive the Church.

This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as “over there” but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.”



  1. Well, I think this is off the wall, and expresses a very immature perspective on what it means to “forgive the church” or not to. I mean, forgiveness is great but naivete is not, there is no succession between the church of the first century that Jesus established and all of the churches vying for peoples’ loyalty today, claiming to be instituted by Christ – there is no reason to be beholden to any of them. The INSTITUTION of the church is not synonymous with Christ, you can easily enough reject the institution and find expression with christians in other contexts, maybe even another type of church, staying very close to Christ.

  2. Thanks for the response Sarah.

    I agree that the institution of the church is not the same as Christ and that you can find Jesus outside of the four walled building. This is very frequently the case. I think we all agree that the church is not bricks and mortar, but a gathering of believers.

    But what I thought this quote did was take the argument beyond the typical, “forgive the church because it has flawed individuals” argument. For me, I equate bad church experiences (whether in an informal house church or a structured, hierarchal church) with the leaders of that place. So, when I’ve been burned by church leaders, I find it hard not only to forgive those individuals, but the thing they were representing.

    I like the focus this short quote brings to the struggle of community and togetherness. Church is messy no matter how you are gathering. I think the question becomes “Can you experience Christ without community?” I would say yes, you can, but you can not experience him to the fullest extent. Plus, if you are without community, who is there to put before yourself (i.e. who do you serve? What do you do with the greatest commandment?)?

  3. I’m speaking for myself here just as a disclaimer, just like I always do.

    The just of this post really resignates with me. I have been think much, on the topic of the church in general, the one that spans history. The one with blood on it’s hands, the one that the state corrupted, that one was reformed, the one that was hope to some and at times death to others and some on and on. There has been times that I just wanted to ditch the church and Christianity…but for me it’s hard to let go of a heritage…that is where I came from. I can’t really explain it, but I can’t easily toss out the religion of my fathers. So I’ve begun to read about different streams of Christianity through out history, specifically Anabaptist and Mennonites. I want to see them(to borrow from avatar). Not to follow exactly in their foot steps but to try to pickup where they left off. I heard a quote some where, “The church is a whore, but she is our mother”

    Ok I’ll stop my senseless rambling.

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