I am writing you this day because I have an obligation to speak up when I see-- or in this case experience something wrong. Mind you, this isn’t a letter begging to come back to _____ because I am fully aware I am not welcome there. I am also just fine with that. But as your sister in Christ and as someone who has been called to kill the stigma around mental illness in the church, I have been given this obligation.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence 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, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Matthew 18:15-17 ESV
When I was at your church I did not see Jesus nor hear him in the way you treated me. No amount of my expressing my story of recovery through Christ could have justified how you humiliated me, watched me as if I was a threat to your congregants, and segregated me into a different section in the church. You have not properly prepared your congregation for the real world if you are so concerned by what the seekers will think if they hear that there is a Christian who self-harms, is suicidal, and struggles with mental illness. And when you haven’t properly prepared your congregants for this, you have failed the seekers…
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18 ESV
Let me express to you from the view of someone who spent time in church when I was agnostic, and seeking Christ… I spent more time looking at people who seemed like they didn’t suffer from these things. I spent more time trying to watch how the pastors treated people with struggles like mine. I watched the pastor’s children. I watched the ones who constantly smiled and rarely expressed pain... I watched people who’d expect that from the congregants…
I did this, not because I was inspired, but because they were the ones who’d hurt others, liberally. If they hurt their other brethren, then they’d hurt me. In other words, seekers of Christ who are just starting out, they spend more time watching and listening to you and thinking badly about your actions than with people who are real and aren’t afraid to show where they struggle. It’s somewhat refreshing to seekers to find people in church without that mask. They tend to believe the word coming from an openly imperfect Christian more than from someone who mimics perfection.
There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.
An example of this in my life is when people read my writing. Everyone says what you create is what’s in your heart, after all.... I often write about my self-harming, suicidal thoughts, addictions, and mental illness. She wasn’t even Christian. She sent me a message saying; “Thanks to Ari who commented on my read book. Her books were beautiful and I was captivated by her faith and as someone who is not religious, made me see religion in a new light.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Matthew 5:3-5 ESV
I was humiliated by your treatment of me through one of the hardest times of my life. It really wasn’t any of your business who I told when outside your church. In most cases, I told these people on facebook. And even when I did what you told me to do and avoided it, you kicked me out anyway. That was devastating. I can even say it was traumatic. Because in the one place where you are supposed to be loved and helped, I was cast out and in one of the darkest times of my life. Once all that ended, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. As a Christian, I was in and not of the world. I got hate handed to me on a daily basis by non-Christians. But as someone with mental illness, I didn’t belong with my family in Christ.
The church is not a museum for pristine saints, but a hospital ward for broken sinners
Now that I have finished expressing myself. I want you to be aware, I have forgiven you, despite how traumatic this was. I do not want to come back, but I do want you to do this big favour for me. As your sister in Christ, I ask that you learn from this situation and not do this to anyone again. If a Christian in my same situation comes expressing things like this, please be aware that it IS part of your mission to help them and treat them the same as everyone else, with the same love. Please treat the others how you’d want to be treated. Bear their burdens, because as you are your brother’s keeper. It is your problem just as it is mine.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 ESV
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:35-40 ESV
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:12 ESV