I just finished reading Anne Graham Lotz’s new book, Wounded By God’s People. I write a lot of my blog posts after I watch something in the news, or hear of a subject or question people are thinking and talking about. This post comes from a much different place in me. Have you ever read a book or an article that expressed your deepest thoughts, fears, angers, and hurts? I just did.
This is an important book for Christians to read. Every Christian I know has been wounded by other Christians. Most Christians, if not all, have inflicted wounds on others. But it happens more frequently now – and Anne wrote a book about it. Reading this book has filled my quiet thoughts for several days now. Anne wrote the book carefully, sharing some personal stories with her readers. I will try to follow her example and do the same with this blog post and the next. There was a lot to think about after reading the book and I think these thoughts are worth sharing.
Anne Graham Lotz is Billy Graham’s daughter and someone I have admired for many years. She is one of the least imperfect Christians I have ever met. That is one of the reasons I found this book so fascinating. If anyone should have been able to live above the war zone, it should have been Anne. On the other hand, she is a woman – in ministry – who lives with biblical standards and refuses to compromise with anything less. On second thought, she is on the front lines of the war zone.
But this book isn’t about Christians being wounded by the world. This book is about Christians being wounded by “friendly fire.” God’s people are a family; a dysfunctional family of competitive, power hungry, back biting, jealous, mean and sometimes loving members. Anne wrote this book for us and about all of us. We need to know how to react when we get hurt and we need to know how to act when we have hurt another.
Anne speaks of Jesus in the preface. He had been flogged, accused and unfairly convicted. Peter, an eyewitness to the assaults on Jesus, described it this way: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made not threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Anne wrote, “If ever someone had the right to protest, ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t fair, I don’t deserve this,’ it was Jesus. . . He knew his beloved Father well enough to know that these very religious people, although they considered themselves God’s representatives on earth, were nothing of the sort. They were wicked, sinful pretenders who would one day stand before God and give an account for what they had done.” Anne goes on to say, “It never ceases to amaze me that the most vicious lies, the most violent attacks, the ultimate rejection of Jesus, came not from the Romans or Greeks or the pagans or the secularists, but from Israelites who were considered by themselves and others the children of God. God’s people.”
Anne weaves the story of Hagar, the hand-maiden of Sarah, as a biblical example for her subject. Wounded By God’s People is about the heartless and cruel ways that Hagar was treated by Sarah and the mistakes Hagar made as well. Abraham, caught in the middle, is equally flawed. The biblical account of Hagar isn’t about who was right and who was wrong. The story is about how everyone was right and wrong. That is true about most disagreements between Christians. There is sometimes a person at greater fault, but rarely is there a person who is completely innocent.
I will talk about this more in my next blog post but for now, consider this quote from the book. Think about it and then carefully offer your own thoughts or stories in the comment section below, protecting the privacy and reputations of yourself and others. This is the personal experience Anne wrote about, an experience that many of us in ministry can relate to:
Anne and her husband had helped a young pastor start a church in the area. The church leaders became dissatisfied with the pastor’s leadership and wanted him to leave. Anne describes the nightly elder’s meetings as “more like a kangaroo court than a group of faithful men seeking God’s will.” In the end, Anne’s husband who had stood against the group’s efforts was forced to resign. Anne writes, “While the people who attended the church were good people, they did not know what had taken place behind closed doors. The pastor’s departure was publicly spun as a desire on his part to return to full time seminary teaching. His farewell dinner was accompanied by praise and prayers and a generous severance package. The cover-up worked for the congregation, who had no reason to believe otherwise.” Anne writes that when the pastor left, so did she and her husband. She said they became “believers in exile.” Anne describes a gifted Bible teacher, a Christian author and a close friend who are also believers in exile. She writes, “They are committed Christians, but have been so burned by the organized church that they no longer feel they can be comfortable in it.” At the end of the chapter she describes Hagar who ran from God because of the way Sarah and Abraham had treated her. Anne teaches, “Whatever the circumstances of your wounding may be, don’t make Hagar’s mistake. Don’t blame God for the behavior of the people who have wounded you.” She concludes the chapter with a quote from the bestselling novelist Anne Rice. Anne Rice had a conversion experience but later pulled away from the organized church. Anne Rice announced: “For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being a ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity…It’s simply impossible for me to belong to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years I have tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
For the comment section: What would you say to a believer in exile? What would you say to Anne Rice? What would you say to yourself? Have you been wounded? Have you wounded a brother or sister? Share carefully…I’ll write more in a couple of days.