It had been a couple years since I had heard from her. Yesterday her message was painful to read: “My ex and satan are using my biggest shame against me. Can I talk to you? SOON?!” I knew enough of her story to guess what the situation might be, and my heart hurt for her.

We get hurt by all kinds of things in this life. Some of the stuff that causes us pain we do to ourselves. It’s bad enough when stuff happens to us, but then we go and make things even worse by the things we do response. We never think the lasting consequences of our choices will happen to US!

But as bad as the bad stuff can be, the shame of it all is what becomes intolerable. You’ve confessed your sin to God, and received His forgiveness. You’ve taken whatever steps you can to repair any harm you’ve caused other people. You’ve tried to go on with your life in a positive way.

But still the shame hangs on. It’s like a scarlet letter tattooed to your forehead. Will you ever live it down? Will you ever be able to feel “normal” again?

  • Your spouse walked out on you. You know you made some mistakes in your marriage, but it’s too late now. Your spouse is remarried, and you’re alone. Every time you fill out personal information you’re reminded of your failure when you have to check the box that says, “Divorced.” And you know church people are talking about you behind your back. You’ll always be one of “those people.”
  • You had an abortion. You didn’t really want to. Well, maybe you did. You didn’t see any other realistic way out. You couldn’t raise a child. Going through the pregnancy and giving the child up for adoption would have let everybody know. But there’s a part in your heart that still aches. Who might that child have been if he or she had been born? Now you’ll never know.
  • You struggle with sexual addiction. Oh, maybe it’s not really that bad, is it? It almost seems those videos show up on your computer screen without you doing anything to get them there. You had a number of sexual partners in the past, but you’ve got it under control now. And yet every time you watch a video or think about wanting to act out again, you feel a little smaller, a little more ashamed. You’re hopeless.
  • You have a mental illness. You try and act normal, and most people probably can’t tell. When someone you don’t know well asks why you were in the hospital you say it was for some tests, when it was really because you tried to kill yourself. Taking your medication every day makes you reel strange. And surely none of the good church people would allow you to volunteer if they knew your real story.

It’s funny the stories our shame tells us, isn’t it? Hiding becomes second nature. Living in the darkness becomes normal. Not all churches make people with these problems feel like second-class Christians, but too many do. And that’s why you may not know about the secret struggles of the person sitting in the pew next to you.

One day I’m going to give a talk and ask everybody who feels like a second-class Christian because of domestic violence, child abuse, mental illness, divorce, abortion, addiction, or something else we’ve made taboo to stand up. And I imagine no one will still be sitting down!

Jesus didn’t come to call the “good church people” to follow Him. He called real people. People like you and me. People with real problems. (Mark 2:17)

So stand up. You’re not a second-class Christian. You’re a bona-fide follower of Jesus!

Your Turn: Have you felt like a second-class Christian? Have you treated others as second-class Christians? Leave a comment below.

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