I’m ending my year long hiatus from blogging by writing about something that has been troubling me. What is wrong with the church? Our church, your church, the church in North America? 2016 has been a painful year in our church. Not the “normal” kind of pain that occurs from membership loss, illness or death in the body of Christ. Although we have experienced that and it has been sorrowful, the kind of pain I’m referring to is deeply discouraging to my spirit. It is the agony of abandonment. Several of our leaders and long time friends, people I considered my brothers and sisters in Christ have walked away from our church, their family and friends to pursue their “happiness” and find themselves. Somewhere along the way they laid down their cross.
Matthew 16:24-“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” NLT
Or perhaps, like many others they never actually picked up their cross. Maybe they liked Jesus, but loved the world. There are others in the Bible that liked Jesus, but walked away.
The rich young ruler liked Him so much he sought out Jesus ‘ perspective on eternal life. Then he walked away when Jesus uncovered the real love of his life- money.
Luke 18:22-23 -“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.” NIV
I believe Judas liked Jesus, he spent three years with him day and night. How could he not? Yet, he betrayed Him for his own earthly agenda.
Herod had great respect for John the Baptist, forerunner for the Messiah. It says in Mark 6:20, “…Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.” Herod heard John’s message “gladly”. Yet, he jettisoned it in a second for his own pride and reputation.
Jesus clearly teaches his disciples many will receive His message and “like it”.
Matthew 13:20-21 -“As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. ” ESV
It is as easy as clicking that icon on FB or Instagram. It requires no commitment or self denial, just a sentiment.
Maybe my friends and former church family members initially received the message of Jesus with joy. Maybe they hit the “like” icon. But now, the stress of life, disappointment in relationships, or their obvious attachment to the world is revealing the true condition of their heart. Perhaps they are like the prodigal son in Luke 15, who saw his father as a resource to be cashed in, so he could pursue what would really make him happy.
I know that we all struggle with sin and worldliness. It is a constant gravitational pull, otherwise, there would be no need to “resist the devil”. (James 4:7) I have been trapped in previous times of sin that undermined my testimony and devotion to God. By His grace, I was delivered.
What I am writing about and what is so discouraging in those that I love is an abandoning of biblical faith, calling wrong right and pursuing their desires at the expense of the most sacred aspects of life in Christ they previously committed to. It’s death. Death to their witness, death to their family unity and ultimately death to their intimacy with God. I don’t think it is exclusive to our church. But for all who claim to have relationship with Christ and have received the word with joy, but now are living in pursuit of self realization and this world, I pray they will as the prodigal son did “come to their senses” and return to the Father.