Monday, May 29, 2006

Henri Nouwen on Forgiving the Church

Dan Kimball @ Vintage Faith has this quote by Henri Houwen
"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."
Henri Nouwen

Nouwen often speaks great truth.
Anyone who has been part of the church, has been wounded by the church at some point in their history - either that or they are lying. Because the church is not "over there" but people just like us - often weak, struggling, self-protective people who unintentionally hurt people - often because we are too busy building walls of protectionism. "The church" continues to talk about forgiveness... but does the church really practice and live out of and in forgiveness.? Apart from forgivness the church is impotent.

8 comments:

The Righteousness of God said...

'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'.

This is a crock! I never like Nouwen at Seminary either. Depends how we defined 'Church'.

Jesus also knew when to thumb those that were not apart of His Kingdom. I refuse to be held at gunpoint by such bull-larny. Prophets were not liked - in fact He still has active one's today - despite such gag orders of flowery half baked prose by Nouwen. Jesus was almost thrown off a hill by the religious nutbars of his time.

Are they really the church? Or are they just passive pew warmers.

I don't hate the church...I just don't approve of the hypocritical behavior. (Love the sinner not the sin).

I have a right to say something about it. Gag me if you will by such bovine fecal material. If anything I feel very sorry for the 'church'.

pastor mike said...

I think you missed the point of what Nouwen said. Nouwen is talking about the Church - capital C, not specific local churches. Nouwen is also talking from a place where he left the hierarcical church and committed himself to living in @ Daybreak in Richmond Hill, working with the poor and rejected in society - the handicapped.

Nouwen, spoke at a graduation service @ OTS [now Tyndale] - to the great chagrin of some of the baptist supporters of the schools. But it was one of the most clearly articulated messages on ministry rooted in the gospels accounts of Jesus's ministry.

I think what Nouwen says about forgiveness is important. We all live with the consequence of the sins of others - our choice is do we do so in the bondage of bitterness or in the freedom of forgiveness.

pkotn said...

pastor mike, thank you for this quote.

Nouwen wouldn't have been concerned if you (rog)liked him.

I don't think it really matters if the church is small or Capital "c". We need to forgive individuals and specific churches just as much and for the same reasons. I think it would be hard to identify the Church asking forgiveness, because for it to be verbal, even if it is highly universal. It is still individual, and limited. Have you ever been in a gathering where pastors/leaders have asked forgiveness, on behalf of congregations, people groups etc? It is freeing, lifegiving, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. And no matter how often it happens, and no matter what scale there will be more needed, bitterness will remain.

Rog you said "I have a right to say something about it. Gag me if you will by such bovine fecal material." We have a lot of rights. We are a blessed, often spoiled people. ROG do you feel this is a "God" given right? or a "North American" right?

I agree if you have been part of a body for any amount of time, you have probably experienced hurt. You have probably been wronged, sad isn't it. But when you have extended forgiveness, you can say almost the same as ROG above. instead of "I don't hate the church...I just don't approve of the hypocritical behavior. (Love the sinner not the sin)." You can say "I LOVE the church...I just don't approve of the hypocritical behavior. (Love the sinner not the sin)." See the difference? I wouldn't try that with your spouse. "I don't hate you." Is it enough to just "not hate"?

Blessings,
pk

Anonymous said...

... hit "post" too early!

What I mean to point out is that for Nouwen, a Catholic, it's a very literal thing when he says "But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ" because the Catholic Church holds the literal "keys to the kingdom", etc and therefore to reject the Church and her sacraments (particularily the mass, where grace is imparted) puts you in danger of falling out of contact with Christ.

You can feel some Vatican II in his statement, in that it's only "very hard" to keep in touch with Christ instead of "impossible".

Anyways, that he was Catholic writing from the Catholic perspective is neither here nor there, depending on your theological striples, but it's never constructive to not at least recognize the likely original intent behind a passage based on the perspective of the author.

My $0.02!

pkotn said...

I think it is a credit to Nouwen, that even though I have not read his writings, or personally heard him speak, I have heard stories of his life, and knew of his ministry in Richmond Hill, without knowing he was Catholic!

pkotn said...

Note: I wasn't dis'n the Catholic Church I just meant "Denomination" affiliation was not forefront.

michael lewis said...

Quoting:

When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too.

I like this portion of Nouwen's article. It rings in my ear the similar ideology of "love the sinner, hate the sin".

(I wrote a post on that very topic.)

However, I must disagree with Nouwen. Jesus and the Church/church (C or c, does not matter) are not synonymous with each other. The truth is that one is a product of the other. The rejection of the effect is not the rejection of the cause.

I can give up on the church (local, denominational, etc.), but I am not therefore giving up on Jesus.

Secondly, I can forgive and not be bitter while at the same time not be involved in a local congregation or denominational assembly. I continue to believe in Jesus and everything else, I just don't torture myself with the meaningless and trivial nonsense which seems to only be found in the bickering and fighting that is constant in a church.

I derive greater joy from friendships and relationship with non-church people, as these are real and honest and truthful. These are the people who are searching and know they are not perfect. church people tend to exude the attitude that they have arrived and are now perfect. Or portray a false sense of imperfection which is actually perfecting the art of imperfection. (Very pentementalist.)

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

Thanks for the excellent quote. Truth.