Letter From a Wounded Disciple

The other day I received a letter from a woman I met several years ago. I was so blown away by her honesty and moved by her suffering that I asked her if it would be OK to share the letter with you. She was very willing to share her own struggles with you. Please open your heart to her pain.

I have kept her real identity concealed for obvious reasons. We can just call her a wounded disciple. May the Holy Spirit move us to change.

Hello, I have followed your blog for a while. I believe that I met you and your wife years ago at a house church gathering. Since then I have divorced (he was abusive and committed adultery), and I’m raising my two sons on my own. I’m writing this to confide in a fellow believer, leader, and respected minister…anonymously… that I have bi-sexual tendencies. I have never acted on them because I really LOVE the Lord. I feel a great deal of conviction when I seriously consider seeking out a relationship with a female. I make a conscious decision to deny myself and be obedient. But the thoughts do exist, and they don’t stay away after I push them from my mind. Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and convictions regarding the support or lack of support for gay marriage. I really wish that church was a safe place to seek guidance and encouragement without fear of rejection, being gossiped about or changing the way people love you. I shouldn’t have to be writing an email to someone I think I met years ago who lives far away now, and I will likely never see again about a struggle I deal with when I have a local congregation I am active in. I don’t trust my church to love me if I were to be honest with them. Thanks for your ministry, loving heart and openness.   Sincerely, Wounded Disciple

How many others feel like this wounded disciple? How can the church be more intentional in the way we embrace those who suffer from physical abuse and inner strife? What are you doing to make your local fellowship a place of safety and acceptance for outcasts? Think about it.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

25 responses to “Letter From a Wounded Disciple

  • Barry

    At every gathering of born again Christians, each is surrounded by others with the same problem as this lady. Whether it is an 8 person Bible study, or where 2 or more are gathered together, or a gathering of 100 or 500 or 1000 in a large church body; it is always a gathering of sinners with any and every kind of diabolical, sinful hang-up one could imagine to one degree or another. All have their own deep dark secrets that are just between them and God – and maybe or not a few other significants in their life that know because they have shared it with them. When Jesus told the accusers of the woman caught in adultery that he who was without sin cast the first stone, do you know why they all turned and went away? All the accusers had their own deep dark secrets rush into the forefront of their minds. It made their hands go numb. They couldn’t hold the stones.

    What a hard balance it is between protecting and maintaining the sanctity of the church body verses allowing the pouring out of sin in honesty and confession from within the heart of hearts of the wounded disciple. Her story is heart breaking, but the story of most Christians. At least she had the courage to expose it – scratch that – confess it, even though anonymously. It almost lends credence to the old style “confession booth” of the catholic church, where one would come nameless and faceless to pour their heart out just to rid themselves of their own wretchedness, and seek freedom from the bondage of their sin that so weighed them down. The desire for namelessness and facelessness and anonymity came from the terror that others – yes the church body – find out the dirt and crush the confessor with ridicule, condemnation and accusation. Even the would-be most trusted minister or elder at times has not the capacity to receive the most dire confession. To where does the confessor then turn?

    In the end, we have the blood of Christ that covers it all. His blood is bigger than any depravation of which the Christian is tempted. When satan the accuser, and even when the accuser which comes in the form of the fellow born-again come accusing; they can still be overcome by our testimony and by the blood of the Lamb. How that plays out in exposure and confession to our fellow Christian is a hard thing. Much, much grace must be in that place. Blessings to our sister who had the courage to share.
    Barry

    • Julie

      Hi, Barry.
      That was a very well thought out post. For the most part I think that you are right.
      However, we have certain sins which are socially/culturally acceptable in our churches and some which are not. Some sins are easily confessed because we know “everyone” does it or it is openly talked about. You can joke with your fellow congregants about gluttony and continue on stuffing your face right in front of them at the pot luck. You can lament over not having enough patience, and people will sympathize.
      However, when sexual sin is mentioned, particularly the less common ones, there is often an awkward silence, no eye contact, a stiff suggestion or offer of prayer, followed by a change of subject or shaking it off by making a joke. Then comes less spiritual intimacy with the church, distance. Try confessing to a group of ladies that you have had a lesbian relationship in the past, and see how you are treated on the trip to the women’s conference, or if you are welcome to help with the youth camp, “Oh, no, we got it covered, thanks.”
      Comments when that person isn’t around follow such as, “that person has issues,” “they need a lot of prayer,” “be careful of their influence,” and “what if the kids start thinking it’s OK?”
      Even when confessions are not made there is prejudices in some of our churches against those who commit these “unacceptable” sins. I’ve heard ministers say that if you were really a Christian, then you wouldn’t be homosexual. And wild claims such as there being special places in hell for gays and pedophiles.
      There is also a common belief that God is going to bring judgment down on the nation because of homosexuality. Who wants to be accused of causing that?
      Hearing these things and seeing these reactions during a lifetime of service in the body is probably what keeps Wounded Disciple silent, even though she has NOT committed the sin.
      Then who wants to be that one out of the crowd who continues to love them and treat them just like the rest of us sinners saved by grace? Will others suspect us of committing the same sin; birds of a feather and all that? Will we be ostracized?
      I’ve seen it. I’ve been embarrassed by it. I’ve been fearful of what would happen if I committed a socially unacceptable sin instead of, or along with, the popular ones.
      There is a lesbian who attends our church, but she has not had a relationship with another person for a long time. She has been in regular attendance for about a year and has tried to grow closer to the Lord. She offered to help me with a campout for our children’s ministry. I let her. She stayed close by me. Others involved didn’t look her way very much, and didn’t ask her for help. They didn’t include her in their conversations, which was probably OK because they were only gossiping, being socially acceptable.

    • Andrew Black

      Hi Barry,
      I wonder about an aspect of your comment. You mention “protecting and maintaining the sanctity of the church body”. How is that done when, as you say, all the members are sinners?

      And is it this feeling that there are gatekeepers who are trying to do that which is at the root of the wounded lady’s problem? If she (and all the others who feel wounded by the church) really had the confidence that the first (and only?) priority of the church was love would she still feel a wounded disciple? But when you have the fear that the gatekeepers would consider you not good enough to be part of the body if they knew the truth about you, isn’t that the cause of the wound? The gatekeepers want to expose the sinners to the gaze of the members who are considered good enough.

      It seems a bit like a public hanging.

      Or have I missed something?

      Greetings,
      Andrew

      • Barry

        It is the tendency of good hearted, sincere Christians to be so loving and grace-giving to the sinner that they end up forgetting that Christ said after turning away the stoners to “…go and sin no more”. In the sincerity of healing the sinner and giving them restoration in God’s house (the church body), many Christians are prone to forget the holy and sanctified place – the church body. The sinner, who understands their sin more than anyone, would expect to be told humbly to please come in, but you ought to leave your sin outside (go and sin no more). This protects the “marriage bed” or the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church, from being defiled.

        My point is that the greatest sinner deserves the greatest grace and forgiveness. The greater the sin – the greater the grace. At the same time the church must remain undefiled. It MUST be protected!

        It is a hard thing to do both at the same time. I think it can be done. “Gatekeepers” as you describe them can be those who are gentle and full of grace, and also able to keep secrets and not be judgmental, but also protectors of the sanctity of the church.

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Barry, since I know you personally… I know where you’re coming from and I think you make a good point. You’re drawing attention to the church’s call to practice holiness. Thanks, bro. I would probably change the wording of leaving sin “outside” as it seems to communicate the very problem our wounded disciple is highlighting. Make sense?

  • Laurence

    I am a 79 year old gay man who was asked to leave my Bible College when I told one of the ministers at the school, in what was supposed to be a inviolate confession (yes, some Protestant faiths have confession) that I was gay. He immediately told the college president and I was asked to leave. The Bible makes no mention of a committed loving relationship between two same sex members. I had one 30 year relationship which ended only in the death of my partner, and since them a 20+ year relationship with another partner. In the first relationship we were very active in our church and spent lots of time in that church helping the homeless (they had a shelter) and doing other things which I think Jesus asked us to do. I just don’t know why any Christian would denigrate or look down on me or my two partners. We are sincere Christians and try to serve others as Jesus asked us to do. The “gay” church in our town (we didn’t belong to that congregation) is as evangelical a church as one could wish to see. The members there love Jesus and are not afraid to demonstrate it to the world. My church was very accepting and knew I and my partners were gay. If homosexuality is so bad, why didn’t Jesus talk about it? I’ve made a long study of the Apostle Paul and can’t find any condemnation of loving same sex relationships. Mostly he condemned idolatry, especially in Romans 1: 18-32.

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Laurence, I appreciate you sharing a bit of your journey. I would rather this thread not evolve into a “biblical” argument for or against homosexuality. I have shared my views here, here, and here. I would like to see comments and discussion relate directly to the church’s challenge to accept folks regardless of our differences of interpretation, secret/public sins, and physical/spiritual abuse. That is the aim of this post. Thanks, bro.

  • Paul Harlan

    This talk of socially acceptable vs. some that are not, methinks, misses the mark. Something of which many of us believers are unaware or unwilling to believe, is that when Christ died for our sins, he died for all of them, past, present & future, socially/culturally acceptable and not. They are buried; as far as the east is from the west, finished, He (Jesus) did this, totally apart form our works, good or bad. Before I would dare to tell my sister this, I must also know it to be a great big wonderful fact!

    One of he “secrets” in this situation is our perception of the Lord Jesus (see 2Corinthians 5:21) and how totally effective His death was, really! I won’t you what my sins are. Why? I won’t tell you for two really good reasons: It is no one’s business, now and it has been totally settled for all eternity. Don’t brush that off. It is God Almighty’s truth. My sister doesn’t have to share that with anyone except the One Who paid the price for her sins and then to trust Him. He did it for her and it is settled, once and for all. His shed blood is that powerful.

    Another “secret” in this very heartbreaking situation is fellowship, real, honest to goodness fellowship. It has been to our eternal blessing that the Lord PUT us into a small fellowship, a fellowship that was just coming together in the early 60s (my wife & I were desperate for fellowship, so we didn’t “seek the church of our choice”). We have never had anyone take to himself the role of “the pastor.” Today, 51 years later, I don’t actually know our total membership, maybe 100-125 and we’ve moved once and some years ago we bought a vacant lot & built a small building on it. A plurality of brothers share leadership responsibilities and ministry of the word. We came together as saved sinners and have slowly come (and some are still coming) to this realization, of which I spoke above, and as newcomers come into our fellowship, they discover that they are among people who are real. I fear to say the next thing, however, I must: In 90% of fundamentalist churches, operating on the same assumptions for hundreds of years, a sister or brother, with such a problem, would be really blessed to find a “cell” within any of these churches, where he/she could find real fellowship. Many do not.

    I fully realize that I’ve solved no one’s problem, but we will pray for our “wounded sister” and believe that God will get hold of her to her eternal blessing. We do have all kind of sinners among us, but it is no one’s business what their/our past happens to be. It is PAST, buried. I just realized this moment why the scriptures make a point of telling that Jesus died, He was BURIED and then He rose from the dead. And He spent 40 days, going in & out among us before He ascended to His Father’s throne. Paul reminds us that over 500 brethren saw him at one time. See 1Corinthians 15. He has many witnesses and that is another “secret.” We have a RISEN savior and He is King and He IS coming again. Hallelujah!

    • David D. Flowers

      Hey Paul, you make several great points. But you do recognize the purpose and healing power of confession (James 5:16), right?

      • Paul Harlan

        David, thank you for your response. Yes, I do realize the value of James 5:16, however, when James wrote that, there were not at that time, assemblies, full of, gossiping dead wood, due to the nature of things (To be baptized could cost one’s life in James’ day). Our wounded sister needs to be in a “safe” place in order to experience the value James 5:16, with people who love her and with whom she can actually trust. I realize that I should have more than inferred this in my first comment. thanks again, for the reminder.

        However, my main point still holds. Brethren (sisters, too) are not realizing the vastness & greatness of the Person of Christ, John 8:58, and therefore, the greatness & effectiveness of his death & resurrection.

        • David D. Flowers

          Thanks, Paul. I do believe that James’ community was dealing with all sorts of similar challenges as the modern church. His language about the tongue having the power of life and death is enough reason to believe it.

        • Barry

          The most ideal safe place is in a church body where confession can be made (if desired and needed) to ears that are honest, trustworthy, loving and full of grace, wherein the same body there is a call to holiness and righteousness.

  • Barry

    Dave… the site won’t let me directly reply to you, so here is my reply…

    I am not saying leaving the “sinfulness” of the sinner “outside”. Lord knows everyone who walks in and out of the His house is carrying so much baggage with them that if we could see it we would all run for our lives. It is the “active ” sin – the continued sinful behavior (remember Jesus said to go and stop sinning) that I speak of. Maybe I should be more blunt and say that the church should be guarded from active sin being perpetrated into the church thereby dragging fellow Christians into said sin and defiling the church. Paul said to not let the never ending grace given to sinners by no means make them think they can keep on sinning. I speak only of active sin being brought into the church body. I’m still not sure I’ve clarified myself on this.

    I feel that if there is a stand on this issue, then one making a stand on the holiness and sanctity of the church body is misconstrued as being bigoted, insensitive and all the other choice, unfair names. I think all the grace us human Christians can muster can be given the sinner AND AT THE SAME TIME the church be protected from active sin. How this happens is the question.

  • Holly

    One way to make sure people at your place of worship feel safe and accepted is to refrain from drawing lines between who you imagine is “in” and who you imagine is “out.” Instead of talking about people, talk with them.

    Dear Wounded Disciple, if you are reading this, please know that you are welcome at my church. You will be loved and cherished exactly as you are. Come to the table, sister. God’s love is endless, and there’s plenty of room.

    • Barry

      Lines are made by people. If THE real line was adhered, we would all be out. God’s mercy erases the line, but the same God also calls for righteousness and a set-apart church body. The balance between the two is delicate.

      • Holly

        In my experience, God gathers us all in, fills us to overflowing with unconditional love, and sends us out to share that love with everyone we encounter. No exceptions. When we hold grace and love so tightly, we’re like children who refuse to share our favorite toy. Are we afraid we’ll use up all of God’s grace and love if we share them too much?

        Relax your grip and you’ll see that this well of love has no bottom, and no end. Daring to love each other in the radical way God loves each of us brings abundant life and joy.

        And have we forgotten that a reader is hurting? Put away the theory for a moment and look at the human being in need. Again, I say, Wounded Disciple, you are accepted and loved. There is plenty of room at the table, and plenty of love to go around. And there are many churches out there, in many denominations, who will welcome you with open arms and claim you as family. My hope and prayer is that you are able to leave this conversation behind and find one.

        Remember that you are now, always were, and always will be completely and unconditionally loved.

        • Barry

          Is the call to the broken to be righteous and holy an unloving call? Especially when one offering the call is the one who has offered love and grace? Can from the same person come both love and grace toward a broken one, but also the Biblical call to righteousness toward him? Does the call to righteousness cancel the call to love and gracefulness?

          When Jesus told the woman at the well after loving her and forgiving her to go and sin no more, did His psych suddenly switch from love and grace to meanness, bigotry or insensitivity? Would He have remained in “love” had He said, “…go; sin more”?

          The point, I think, of David’s post is of sorts how to receive the sinner into the church. There is both the responsibility of love and grace and a safe refuge accompanied with the call to sin no more – a call to righteousness. Both calls are as much for the sinner as for the church body. I think both are necessary. Either without the other is greatly irresponsible and incomplete.

          My point is two-fold:
          1. Both are necessary.
          2. It’s incredibly hard to pull them off at the same time, but it can be done.

        • David D. Flowers

          Hey Julie & Barry, I think you guys are really on the same page. I also like what Holly said. Look at the wounded disciple who is in need. Maybe it’s most appropriate to respond simply with words of love and consolation in light of the sins committed against her by the Body of Christ. I do believe everyone commenting in this thread agrees with the biblical injunctions against embracing sinful practices within the church. But that’s not the primary concern here. 🙂

      • Julie

        Hi, Barry.

        What is that supposed to look like in practice? It isn’t enough to just acknowledge it. We have to act on it in some way. If the appropriate reactions and attitudes are not well defined then they can be displayed in anyway imagined and are often done so in a bad way.

        And, if we would all be out if it were not for the grace and mercy of God, then why is the one with sexual sin -or even just temptation or a past in that- treated differently?

        I just don’t believe that we should claim that the line is erased for our own sins, but treat some as if it is not. I’m not saying that we should ignore ongoing lifestyle of sin. I think people need to be LOVED and encouraged out of it, with patience and a kind attitude. But what I’m getting at is how can we justify mistreating, making outcasts out of those who are tempted or engaging in one type of sin, while saying that none of us measure up? I attend a church where the elders and their wives are notorious for gossiping. When anyone mentions it, then it is usually just laughed off. When I complained to the pastor, instead of addressing the issue with them, the pastor placed me in a different Bible study group so that I wouldn’t be bothered by them. The lesbian in my church who is not living that lifestyle anymore is rejected, however, the elders’ ongoing, open sin is not dealt with.

        I’m not saying that you are wrong in what you believe. I agree. But to me we have to go beyond discussing the ideology. This is evidence of churches lacking love and not being a spiritually safe place for those with certain struggles. It is a behavior and attitude problem that many Christian churches have. I think that it is rooted more in culture and socially accepted practices than it is in spiritual conviction because of the acceptance of some sins and mistreatment of those who commit others.

        People who are truly walking in the Spirit and are understanding and experiencing grace live out Galatians 5:22-25. They are able to extend grace to others. They can love people where they are and can gently encourage them to seek the Lord’s will for their lives in obedience.

        Maybe it goes back to the hearts of many believers not really understanding the grace and love of God for themselves. People can’t impart what they don’t understand.

  • Bob Demyanovich

    The church is public, it is light, it is corporate worship. The world is enticing but we are exhorted to deny ourselves and follow Jesus. We should so conduct our lives that we do not need to shun the light. There is sufficient strength to overcome temptation yet if we succumb we have an advocate, a high priest who forgives every time we repent up to the judgment. Jesus prays that we be not taken from the world but protected from the evil one. In pain, in repentance we are strengthened in this exercise to withstand further unrighteousness; we draw closer to our Father. We are not to judge or condemn to avoid the same. The one who protests the adulterer seeks empathy for a different sin of the flesh. Self-ish-ness is sometimes cloaked in pitiful misery yet the sting of sin is death. We know that God is love and is unwilling that any should perish. the public church cannot permit public sin. There are biblical examples of chastising error and unrighteousness. Sin must then be forgiven. The unstable must be edified in prayer and companionship in the Word of God, the Bible.

  • Bob Demyanovich

    People of different faiths than our own are sensitive and hurting. There obviously will be outreach in a loving manner. Must they accept true salvation? The narrow discussion limits comprehension.

  • Bob Demyanovich

    At first I witnessed to everyone and that was the outcome, I witnessed to everyone. As zealous as I was there was a passage of time before I realized that witness was effected through prayer. Jesus witnessed through me when I got out of the way. I do not witness, I do not have the capacity to love the unlovable. How false the most ardent appear when they are fully spent and have no further capacity to continue. All the best intentioned help is tainted for the abandoned care receiver. None are more righteous than the Pharisees.

  • Bob Demyanovich

    How much can you love? Will you take the unlovable home with you? Pronouncements beyond our means ring false apart from proper attribution. Love preaches the gospel to the poor, heals the brokenhearted, preaches deliverance to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind and to set at liberty them that are bruised. Luke 4:8

  • Jade Kennedy

    When I reflect on my own inner struggles of sin and the challenges I face as a Christian, I feel compassion for our sister ‘wounded disciple’. What compounds the problem is not having a healthy church family to support you. I think Barry at the top encapsulated the problem rightly when he said we all have our sins, but in the new testament there are strong themes of the compassion of Jesus and the Holiness of Jesus, which to the natural mind are polar opposites.

    As I get older, I see that I used to be more concerned with the actions of the outward man, but now I see that it is in and through our weaknesses that Jesus uses to draw us to Himself. “Come unto me those who are heavy burdened..”

    Just this past April Brennan Manning passed away. He wrote the Ragamuffin Gospel. One of his talks on YouTube: “Brennan Manning Sermon: Kingdom Works 1999 Video”, really impacted me as Brennan passionately articulates the compassion of Jesus. I think Brennan is right when he says that it is when we are compassionate towards each other, that we are the most Christ-like. I know most of us do not want to hear the brutal honesty of our Christian friends lives (or get involved), but this is what “real” Christianity is all about. “You will know them by their fruit..”

  • David D. Flowers

    Hey Jade, I remember when I first watched that message by Brennan Manning. Powerful! I cried at my desk while watching it. Thanks for adding to the discussion with such compassion.

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