My first stepfather sexually abused me when I was 7 years old. A typical situation, I suppose – he threatened harm if I told anyone. Fortunately, there were other problems with the marriage, and my mom divorced him after only a year together. But we all had scars from that experience.
My scars fed my strong desire for revenge. As I grew older and came to understand what he had done to me, I grew angrier. In my late teens, I fantasized about running into him someday. I planned each move, the first being a fully energized kick square in the source of my suffering, sending him to his knees. There were times when I even dreamed of killing him. The hate was strong and painful.
About 20 years later, I met Jesus Christ and He started teaching me about love and forgiveness. It’s taken me a long time to learn the lesson, but I finally let go of the hate. I wholeheartedly forgive my stepfather. I feel sorry for him, for he was a very troubled person. And I’m now free of my own troubles – free from the pain of hate and memories, freed by forgiveness. Thanks to the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Sometimes I rant about the dealings of the Catholic Church. I truly apologize if I have offended anyone. But I have seen the effects of the shortcomings of the Catholic Church up close. I know many wounded Catholics, those who had belonged to the Catholic Church, maybe even since birth, yet left with bad experiences. My stepfather, stepbrother, and many close friends are among them.
Yet in the case of my stepfather, he didn’t leave by choice; he was kicked out because of the sin of his divorce from his first wife. It distresses me that though Jesus has forgiven my stepfather, the Catholic Church cannot.
My heart breaks for those wounded Catholics, like my stepfather, who are not able to find their way to another church. All his life my stepfather was told that the Catholic Church is the only one, true church. And when that church failed him, where can he go? He has gone nowhere, and remains lost.
If you are a “wounded” Catholic, having given up on the Catholic Church, please don’t give up on Jesus. He still loves you, and always will. God, as our ultimate and perfect Father, loves all His children, no matter what church they may go to.
Here are some of the ways I used to feel around Christians; see if these sound familiar to your experience:
I felt like Christians were constantly judging my behavior and actions.
It seemed to me like Christians thought they were better than everyone else.
I felt like Christians disliked me and everyone else who wasn’t a Christian.
I thought Christians were flat-out weird whenever I saw them praying in public, and I’d stay far away from them, as if I didn’t want to catch whatever sickness they had.
The worst was that I always felt like Christians were trying to pressure me to convert and take on their beliefs. Just leave me alone and let me be how I want to be!!! – that’s how I felt.
Than I became a Christian. I remember my sister saying, “Oh no, are you now a Jesus Freak?” The answer was yes. Yet even though I had become crazy about Jesus, I sure didn’t want to become creepy. Ever since I decided that I really like Jesus and believe in Him, I’ve been searching for the truth of what a real “Christian” should look like. In other words, how would Jesus have Christians appear to non-Christians?
For all who call themselves “Christian,” here’s some advice from the experts (note, I like to put Jesus’ words in red, since He’s the best expert on the subject):
“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Corinthians 8:9)
“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” (Romans 14:13)
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)
“But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men… But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.”(Matthew 6:5, 6)
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
“Be merciful to those who doubt.” (Jude 1:22)
All Christians should pay attention to the advice of the experts.
Two of the fundamental truths about the Old Testament are these: it contains God’s laws, and it clearly defines the punishments for breaking those laws. The Lord is a God of justice, and therefore there must be penalties for breaking His laws, and those penalties MUST be carried out, or there is no justice. This may be obvious to you, but I just want to establish this as the foundation for what comes next, so please bear with me as I continue to follow a particular train of thought.
Chapter 20 of Leviticus is one such declaration of God’s punishments. These punishments seem harsh to many modern-day “believers”, and many have difficulty accepting them because of that. Some find it hard to accept death as the penalty for so many acts that are unfortunately commonplace within our society. But this does not make these punishments un-real or not true, or any less mandatory. These punishments are real and true and must be carried out, in all cases, or there is no justice. There is no sin that has been or will be committed, where the prescribed punishment of God will be reprieved.
Yet, sometimes there appear to be pardons of sorts, within God’s own words. For example: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah, 44:22)
But through Isaiah, God later clarifies that He’s not talking about a true pardon; rather the penalty has been transferred to someone else…
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)
“…because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)
God was talking about His only begotten son, who we know as Jesus Christ.
Yet many misunderstand what Jesus taught and the meaning of His sacrifice. It seems like some people think Jesus came to negate the law and prescribed punishments, and replace it with some milk-toast type of religion. Yet as He Himself stated:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.“ (Matthew 5:17)
“It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:17) As Jesus stated, the law must be fulfilled, as it is written in the Old Testament.
Now look how perfect God’s plan is: God knows there are none without sin and all deserve death, yet God promised Noah He would not repeat that punishment of old. So how could God’s law be fulfilled, yet in a way that holds to God’s promise to Noah? As you may know, Jesus brought the answer…
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12:47)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10
“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.'” “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36)
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
God’s laws and punishments recorded in the Old Testament would be fulfilled and carried out, in the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, for those who believe and who have asked forgiveness from God for their sins, the punishments have been lifted from their shoulders and loaded upon Jesus. Jesus bore upon Himself every death penalty, for every sin where God had prescribed death. Check out Leviticus chapter 20; that amounts to a lot of death penalties.
Now that I’ve presented the facts according to God, I will proceed to the main reason I am writing today. There are many who choose to loudly condemn sinners, such as those at the Westboro Baptist Church, of whom I have written about before.
Their rampant condemnation of sinners appears to be a blatant disregard of Jesus Christ and an apparent refusal to accept and believe in His sacrifice. Condemning a sinner who may have repented is like telling Jesus He died for nothing.
But another alarming reality is this: those who attack and condemn sinners, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, seem to assume that a particular sinner has not repented; yet how would they know that? True repentance can only be between that person and God, and it is God alone who can judge whether or not the repentance is sincere and from the heart. By taking that responsibility for judgment upon themselves, those who condemn are trying to be God!!!
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
Those who condemn sinners have sat themselves in the judges seat, yet we are called to be witnesses, not judges. As Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
I fear for the souls of those at the Westboro Baptist Church, and others who share their hate. They appear to set themselves up as judges, against the will of their savior Jesus Christ. On top of that, they appear to ignore the cross; the fact that Jesus has already taken upon Himself the prescribed punishment for every sin, for every sinner who believes and who has repented. They appear to ignore the reality of Jesus Christ Himself!
“The Vatican insisted that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding females from the priesthood as it issued a new warning that women taking part in ordinations will be excommunicated.” I’ve quoted this statement before, from an article that appeared in my local newspaper (see “Ban on Women Priests“). Today I want to look at this idea of excommunication.
Does the Catholic Church consider their denomination exclusive? Break their roles and you’re out; is that it? Look, this is how I see it: the Grand Imperial Masters of the Catholic Club have little tolerance for those who break their rules. Break a rule, and you’re out of the country club.
But how I see it doesn’t matter, especially since I tend to be biased and sometimes un-graceful (I never said I was flawless, and please forgive me for any harsh sounding remarks). What matters is how does Jesus look at this issue of excommunication? What does He think about this practice of kicking people out who don’t follow the rules? What might He say to the Catholic Church?
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7) I’m not saying those who break the rules are always innocent, but I believe Jesus is telling us to be merciful.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13) Yes, to me many modern day churches resemble Pharisees, in that it sometimes seems their “traditions” are more important than God’s laws and His direction for our lives.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17) How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners? And I wonder, does God consider it a sin if a woman becomes a priest?
Even Paul has something to say, “Take special note of those who do not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as fellow believers.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)
“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
And here is a message for anyone who finds themselves kicked out of the club:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10)
“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.” (Luke 12:4)
Mary, being raised Catholic, was taught that there are different levels of sinning, and that some sins are not forgiven. Mary attended a small Bible study group I was part of, and she once made a statement that sounded like a mixture of assertion and question. It went something like this, “God doesn’t forgive all sins… right?” Mary had left the Catholic Church, and maybe she was inwardly hoping for an answer different from what she had been taught.
Now, I really don’t know much about the Catholic hierarchy of sins, but I do know what Jesus had to say on the subject…
“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, … Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (aka, Jesus) will be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31-32)
Jesus doesn’t seem to exclude much, when defining for us which sins are forgiven. I wonder; what part of “every” does the Catholic Church not understand?
“New York Cardinal Edward Egan says Rudy Giuliani should not have received Holy Communion during the pope’s visit because he supports abortion rights.” So said the three paragraph blurb in the national section of my local newspaper. Apparently the cardinal and Giuliani had “an understanding”, that Giuliani was no longer to receive communion because of his views. What would Jesus say to this?
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:25) I see no conditions, except for the condition to remember Jesus as we take communion.
Look at what else Paul said to the Corinthians, who perhaps had personal problems far surpassing those of Mr. Giuliani: “Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-28 ) Did Paul say we need approval from the church before partaking in communion? “A man ought to examine himself…” Whether or not an individual is worthy of taking communion is strictly something between themselves and God, or so it seems to me.
Yet maybe I’m misunderstanding the motives of the Catholic Church. Maybe the issue for them is that Mr. Giuliani has in effect sinned against them, by having views different from the views of the church. Immediately following Jesus’ instructions on how to pray to God, where He told us to ask for forgiveness, “…as we forgive our debtors”, He added: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Or, if the church contests that supporting abortion rights is a sin in God’s eyes, and if those who sin should not take Holy Communion within the Catholic church, then the line up to the alter would be short indeed. “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one'” (Romans 3:10) Again in Galatians 3:22, “But the scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.” If none are without sin, who can take communion?
Yet thanks to the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. But are the actions of the Catholic Church implying that Jesus’ atoning death on the cross did not provide for the forgiveness of our sins? Was Jesus’ death for nothing? I don’t believe it. Yet the important thing is: what do you believe?
We are forgiven and there is nothing between us and communion, except maybe the Catholic Church. It’s not your sin Rudy that comes between you and communion with Jesus Christ; it’s the church. Step around the church and embrace your Lord. If he had “examined himself” and found himself worthy, then I applaud Mr. Giuliani for doing what was right, in Gods eyes.