Ok, I am going to get a bit personal here and allude to some of my own story and am interested in hearing your opinion on this subject.
I believe it is important to forgive everything. To move forward in life (eventually) as you come through painful chapters. So how does this look, practically?
We have worked very hard to preserve friendships at the church we left a year ago. It hasn’t been easy and I have felt that often the onus has been on me to reach out for contact. But gradually we have shared our story with people and this has really helped, and in some cases even strengthened our relationships.
But the thing I want to talk about is the relationships with the leaders and how to handle that piece of the puzzle. See, we were very close friends with the leaders for years, and towards the end of our tenure at this church, we confronted them personally and intensively about what we considered significant ethical/moral missteps (this took an enormous amount of courage on our part as we knew we were risking relationships as we made our appeals to them). We also recognized that the decisions we were ill-at-ease about were not isolated incidents but part of the ingrained culture of the church – things such as financial secrecy, closed door politicking, and a general sense of “Lord’s anointed entitlement”. We had, as part of the small and close-knit deacons team, turned a blind eye to this or even advanced it in times past.
We still occasionally see/interact with these leaders (at baby showers, kids’ birthday parties, helping friends move, etc). This is inevitable since we are keeping up our friendships with those in the church.
So here is where I am asking for your opinion….. I simply can’t feel authentic about a friendship with these self-appointed leaders when the issues that turned us away still remain. I have a fundamental and diametric opposition to the shenanigans that took place. I always will! However, I also want to offer an olive branch of peace and be a forgiving person. How does one go about this, without letting people off the hook or making it appear their choices were no big deal? How can I forgive them and still let them know our friendship has a boundary because of the wall of privilege that THEY built – that it’s not me, it’s them?